ROSELLE, NJ — Mayor Reginald Atkins has announced that Roselle has been awarded a $5.5 million New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act grant to build a community resource center. The library addition, along with the planned upgrade of the library, will be beneficial to all residents of the community.
The project will begin with the renovation of the existing library, which is falling short as a community resource center because of its size and out-of-date design. The library will be getting a new HVAC system, better lighting, enhanced Wi-Fi and ADA-accessible stacks, according to Roselle Public Library Director Jeanne Marie Ryan.
“We were selected in part because of the age of our building. The building is really old,” Ryan said on Friday, Nov. 13. She said the upgrade was needed “because the physical facility is very small, considering the size of our community, and because we have a community that really relies heavily on us for computer access. Our technology needs to be upgraded, because we don’t have the infrastructure to support it. We did have to apply and it was a very competitive grant process. I believe 38 grants were awarded, but more than 120 libraries applied.”
Ryan explained that the Roselle Public Library is 83 years old, and, while she emphasized that it is a beautiful building, it is still showing signs of age.
“Rumor has it that the architect who designed the main room of our library is also the one who designed the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “I’ve always taken that with a grain of salt, but I was fortunate enough to be in the Folger Shakespeare Library a couple of years ago, and I actually can see some similarity in the designs, so I think it is a possibility.
“The library is currently about 7,500 square feet, with more than 5,000 square feet of accessibility to the public,” Ryan said. “The renovation and expansion will make the library’s square footage more than 20,000 square feet. The best part of the new library is that it will have community-program space. So we are so excited to actually have program rooms where we can do programs for the community, because, right now, we have a very small children’s room. We also have our main room, but these are rooms that are not specific program rooms. So, when we try to do a program in them, others who are there to study won’t be able to concentrate.”
Plans for the project’s second component, the construction of a 15,400-square-foot, two-story addition to the existing library, have evolved, according to Ryan.
“The addition will be added to the main room and will expand further,” said Ryan, “so it will be an L-shaped infrastructure attached to the library. Part of the L-shape will be two story and part will only be one story. The planned addition includes a new youth services section for both teens and children, with a program room and small study rooms on the newly built second floor.”
The addition on the first floor contains a handicapped-accessible main entrance, expanded technology, adult collections, flexible meeting areas and multipurpose rooms, Ryan explained. There will be a separate wing with program rooms. These areas provide more latitude to expand the library’s strong community programming, which ranges from early literacy to senior computer classes. The overall library capacity will go from 79 seats to 279 seats.
“Residents can expect community programming space,” Ryan said. “They can expect enhanced collections, bathrooms, furniture, better lighting and better technology. We will also have small individual study rooms that residents can either use for study purposes and group projects or for business purposes.”
According to Ryan, who worked hard to get the legislation passed that led to funding, getting the grant was a team effort.
The original library planning team, convened by former Mayor Christine Dansereau, consisted of Ryan, Council President Denise Wilkerson, former Economic Development Coordinator Isiah Barr, grant writer David Biunno, library board of trustees President Maureen Boyle, library trustees Adrienne Williams and R. Eudora Winston, librarian Natalie Peitsinovski, and assorted professional consultants.
As the project progressed, the Borough Council Finance Committee, chaired by 2nd Ward Councilman Brandon Bernier, worked with many from the original team to shape the final grant proposal.
Ryan said the kickoff for the project appears to be nearing.
“The good news is that the money that appropriates the funding for this went through, but the Assembly Budget Committee and the Senate Budget and Appropriation Committee voted unanimously yesterday,” Ryan said. “But these bills still need to go to the full Assembly and to the full Senate, and then Gov. Phil Murphy will need to sign it into law. This will be built; it just isn’t concrete yet.”
The New Jersey State Library communications director explained the legislative process.
“On Nov. 5, the Governor’s Office sent the State Library’s list of projects to the Legislature,” said Tiffany McClary, the director of Communications, Market and Outreach for the New Jersey State Library, on Monday, Nov. 16. “The legislation was introduced in the General Assembly Bill A4942: Appropriates $87,444,690 from ‘New Jersey Library Construction Fund’ to provide grants for construction, reconstruction, development, extension, improvement and furnishing of New Jersey’s public libraries.
“As of Nov. 10, the Senate introduced the companion bill, S3176. Once the appropriation is approved by both houses and signed by the governor, the state librarian will be sending grant award letters to the successful applicants. There is no specific time limit for the Legislature to approve. The State Library is not able to respond to questions at this time or share more beyond what is in the press release.”
“I’m so excited about this,” Ryan said. “I did a lot of advocacy work with the New Jersey Library Association to get this legislation passed. I’m extremely proud of it. But to actually be awarded a competitive grant for Roselle, it matters so much to me. Especially since they were so highly competitive.
“I believe we’ve received the fifth-highest grant award in the state, so that was very good also. It was very important to the entire team that worked on the library grant that we had enough money to provide a library that would suit the needs of the community.”
Roselle’s mayor, Reginald Atkins, spoke very positively of these developments for the public library.
“I think the impact of the Resource Center is going to impact the lives of residents from the east side to the west side,” said Atkins on Tuesday, Nov. 17. “I believe that it’s a long time coming, and this is a good start. I think this is a prelude of what we’re going to see in our town, and I’m hoping this will spark further conversations of us getting a new school in Roselle that’s needed.”