SOUTH ORANGE – The South Orange Public Library, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, is planning a renovation and expansion.
In 1864, a group of people started a book group in a South Orange storefront, and from that group came the birth of the South Orange Public Library. Thirty years later, a building was donated by local businessmen Eugene Connett with the stipulation that the building would be made into a library.
In the 1920s it became apparent that the library couldn’t accommodate all of the people who visited on a daily basis, and the library board decided to add a wing to the back of the building. In the 1950s, with more children and teens using the library, the board agreed more space was needed. An addition was finished in 1968.
Today, South Orange's library board is again looking to expand the library to accommodate more people. South Orange Public Library Director Melissa Kopecky said that the library renovation would be great for a town with limited options for open, public places.
“There’s a lessening of noncommercial, free and open spaces,” Kopecky said. “The library is the perfect place for the increasing number of people.”
According to Kopecky the library board, along with the village, applied for and received a Garden State Historic Village Trust Fund grant. The board can use the grant to can hire architects and do an assessment of the old building. The plan is to construct a link between the two buildings and create an entrance so both buildings can be accessed.
It would be a solution that would allow everyone to come in and find everything easily, Kopecky said. She also noted that one of the bigger problems with the library’s space was that there was no place for small meetings and groups or for quiet study groups. She said the expansion seems like a reasonable option for the library, which sees an average of 400 people a day and is quickly running out of space.
The library board is also in the process of creating a foundation to provide additional support. “The next step is to expand the actual plan and see if we can’t do it,” Kopecky said. “We have now done the groundwork, so we have a commitment to the plan.”