Two local libraries will receive funds under legislation signed by Gov. Murphy

Gov. Phil Murphy has signed A-4942 into law and the legislation authorizes nearly $87.5 million to be distributed to proposed projects for the first round of funding from the Library Construction Bond Act.

The funding will provide improvements to New Jersey public libraries, including Americans with Disabilities Act compliance upgrades for disabled residents, plus heating, ventilation and air conditioning improvements, and projects to improve public access to information and modernize community space, including procuring new technology, according to a press release from Murphy’s office.

The initial grant round will also fund 10 new library buildings. A second round of awards is planned for the first quarter of 2021, according to the press release.

“Our public libraries serve as community bedrocks, providing resources and information to thousands of New Jerseyans,” Murphy said. “With this bill signing, libraries will receive critical funding to address accessibility issues for our disability community and provide necessary safety improvements for adequate ventilation systems, as well as upgrading technology that will help shrink the digital divide in communities across the state.”

The following projects will be among those from around the state to receive the first round of funding:

• $889,000, Freehold Public Library, East Main Street, Freehold Borough.

Library Director Kathy Mulholland said Freehold Borough, which supports and is served by the Freehold Public Library, has committed to provide the required matching funds. She said the library’s application met all of the priorities and guidelines of the program.

Mulholland said the library building on East Main Street is an original Carnegie library and has remained substantially unchanged since its construction in 1903-04. The renovation project will focus on updating building systems and making accessibility modifications to the existing structure.

Renovation plans include wheelchair access to the entire facility; two new Americans with Disabilities Act restrooms; kitchenette for staff/program use; heating, ventilation and air conditioning improvements throughout; ramp, deck, lobby for wheelchair lift and new entrance at rear of upper level; designated handicapped parking adjacent to library; relocated staff office and repositioned circulation desk; new teen room public space reclaimed from storage/utility areas; safety improvements to front entrance (preserving historic character); remodeling and new shelving in children’s room; updated electric service throughout with improved lighting and public access to outlets; designated conference/study room; additional shelf capacity, especially for children’s, teen and adult fiction collections.

Mulholland said the priorities of the renovation will be to create a space that is accessible, welcoming, comfortable and safe for the entire community; allow for efficient and flexible use of interior spaces; equip the facility for sustainable and beneficial use well into the future; and preserve the historic and charming aesthetic of the building.

The Freehold Public Library operates independently of the Monmouth County Library System. The application for the grant was submitted by the library’s trustees, Jane C.
Kaye, president.

Any entity or individual wishing to donate toward the cost of the renovation may contact Kathy Mulholland at kmulholland@freeholdpubliclibrary.org or 732-462-5135.

• $1,950,000, Monmouth County Library Headquarters, Symmes Drive, Manalapan.

Judith Tolchin, the director of the Monmouth County Library System, said, “The Monmouth County Library applied for funding to complete the adult reading room, including upgrades to the power, lighting and technology infrastructure, and the addition of a special teen reading room.

“The library also requested improvements to the lobby and to the lobby restrooms to make them more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to modernize and repair the meeting rooms which are extensively used by the library and the community.

“The project was brought forward by the efforts of the Library Commission, its chairman Frank Wells, and Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian G. Burry, who recognized the need to improve and update the library’s facilities to meet the needs of our patrons following the recommendations of a library consulting firm and outreach survey results provided by library users,” Tolchin said.

“The library received much assistance from staff members who worked tirelessly on the grant, and support from Monmouth County, including the county Administration Department, the county Engineering Department and the county Buildings and Grounds Department.

“Settembrino Architects was contracted and developed a proposal based on specifications developed by the Engineering Department and the library. As required by the terms of the grant, the $1,950,000 award will require matching funds in the amount of $1,950,000 from the library.

“We are very fortunate to be among the selected libraries and also wish express gratitude to the New Jersey State Library and to the New Jersey voters who approved the New Jersey Public Library Construction Bond Act in November 2017,” Tolchin said.

“We are thrilled to learn Gov. Murphy has signed a bill into law allowing for the initial grant round of Library Construction Bond Act funding to be distributed to the selected New Jersey libraries,” New Jersey State Librarian Mary L. Chute said.

“The pool of eligible applicants reflected many strong projects responding to compelling community needs. The initial 38 awards rate as the ‘best of the best’ by the review committee. We congratulate them and look forward to seeing their projects get underway,” Chute said.