Chatham Library Makes its $4.5 Million Pitch to "Reorganize, Renovate, Modernize"

Chatham Borough resident Gerry Geisler speaks in favor of the library renovation plans Credits: TAP Chatham
Board trustee Andrew Hollander and director Karen Brodsky make presentation to Chatham Borough Council on renovation plans for Library Credits: TAP Chatham
Chatham resident Julie Moran, teacher at St. Patrick School, talks about the benefits of a STEM room at the Chatham Library during public session of Chatham Borough Council Credits: TAP Chatham

CHATHAM, NJ - Library board trustee Andrew Hollander presented the plan to "Reorganize, Renovate and Modernize" the Library of the Chathams and asked for the Borough of Chatham Council to commit taxpayer money to the project on Monday night.

Hollander and library director Karen Brodsky gave a similar presentation to the Chatham Township Committee on Thursday night.

The total cost of $4.5 million would include a teen room; a more accessible and improved history room; a reorganized children's room; a STEM room for robotics, which would double as a meeting room, and a business center. The cost also includes $1.7 million in electrical, HVAC and security improvements, which are deemed necessities.

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Previous renovations to the library were done in piecemeal. The plan being presented is a more "holistic" approach, which makes the library more open and efficient in its layout. It does not expand the footprint of the building.

The Library will be contributing $1 million it has raised through contributions to defray the cost. That money includes $250,000 donated by the Edwin Kruse Estate and $150,000 gifted by the Chatham Woman's Club to benefit the teen room.

Chatham Borough and Chatham Township are being asked to split $3 million of the tab. In a long-standing agreement, Chatham Township provides 54 percent of the costs related to the library and Chatham Borough is responsible for 46 percent, mainly based on the population of the towns.

According to borough council president Jim Lonergan, Chatham Township and Chatham Borough are set to meet Tuesday, Nov. 15, and are likely to discuss the prospects of financing the proposal.

According to Hollander, the cost to Chatham Township taxpayers would be $23.46 per year over a 10-year period. Chatham Borough taxpayers would pay $14.62 per year over the same period.

Brodsky indicated it would take one and a half years to complete the renovation once it is approved and has gone out to bid. The library would remain open to the public during the renovation.

In his presentation, Hollander pointed out that 70 percent of Chatham residents possess a library card; that there were 237,000 visitors to the library last year and another 195,000 visits to the library website. Overall, 238,000 items were checked out of the library in the past year.

As it was at the Chatham Township meeting on Thursday, residents spoke in favor of the library renovation plans during the public portion of the Chatham Borough meeting.

Resident Julie Moran, a teacher at St. Patrick School, spoke of the benefits of a STEM room at the library. She said young children are very interested in STEM, but that there just isn't enough time during the school day to set aside for just STEM. Moran said she was "excited" when she heard of the plans for a STEM room at the library.

Terry Kandalaft of the Chatham Woman's Club speaks in favor of the library renovations


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