SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – With shelves stocked and renovations complete, the newly renovated and expanded South Plainfield Memorial Library reopened to patrons on Monday morning. Over 20 residents were there when the doors officially opened Feb. 1 at 10 a.m.
“This is beautiful. It’s just fantastic,” said avid library user Ethel Belale as she walked through the doors for the first time. “Education is the key for a life of learning. They did an excellent job here.”
Francesca Merendino said, “I drive by everyday and saw the progress but I had no idea. The minute you walk in, it just blows you away.”
Stephanie Bonnano, who served on the library board back when the project was first approved and is a member of the Friends of the South Plainfield Library, added, “I love it. It looks beautiful and is even better than I expected it to be.”
Library and Borough officials officially broke ground on the $2.6 million project in August 2014. Construction of the 6,333 square foot addition took place first followed by the renovation of the existing 6,300 square foot facility. Patrons can expect a bigger library with more space to accommodate their needs.
The new library is now 12,633 square feet and includes three quiet study rooms, a state-of-the-art multipurpose/programming room, a children’s ‘wing,’ a family bathroom and expanded staff space. To make the entire collection accessible on one floor, the old mezzanine was removed and, in an effort to protect against the possibility of future flooding – the library was damaged following Hurricane Irene – the new construction was raised 2.5 feet higher than the old building. Additionally, the entire library is handicap accessible.
According to Darlene Tedesco Cullen, president of the library’s board of trustees, Mayor Matt Anesh and Councilman Ray Rusnak deserve special thanks for “getting the ball rolling on a project that had been ‘talked’ about for 20-plus years.” Additionally, she said, the project would not have been possible without the support from all the former and current library trustees; former library director Sunnie Randolph, who was instrumental in saving money throughout the years that helped to fund the project; the residents and businesses who donated funding; and current library director Linda Hansen and her entire staff for believing in the committee, working with the architects and engineers, and for keeping patrons of the library in the loop about the progress of this project.
“As the president of the board of trustees I am proud of the new library and grateful for all those involved in the project,” Tedesco Cullen said.
Although the project took 18 months – approximately five months longer than originally anticipated due to a subcontractor delay that set other people’s work schedules back and was followed by an unexpected construction issue – Tedesco Cullen is hopeful residents will agree it was well worth the wait.
“The library staff, former and current trustees as well as the entire community have been patiently waiting for the library to reopen and, hopefully, after seeing the library everyone will understand why it took so long,” she said.
And patrons who visited the library on Monday seem to agree to was well worth the wait.
“We waited a long time for it to reopen but it was definitely worth the wait. It is so beautiful, bright and airy,” said Bob Cavaliere. His wife, Jackie, added, “I’m overwhelmed. I’ve been coming here with my grandchildren for eight years – they are six and 10 now – and I have been waiting for a new children’s room for a long time. I am blown away. It’s a dream come true.”
Bruce Bertucci, a resident since 1973, spent the morning the library reopened reading the newspaper, something he did daily before the library closed for renovations. During the closure, he turned to the Dunellen and Bridgewater libraries and, for Internet, had the South Plainfield Senior Center as an option. “It’s very nice,” Bertucci said of the new facility. “I am glad to be able to come back.”
Perhaps one of the most significant – and anticipated - changes is the new children’s area, which features a wide-open space, dozens of book-lined shelves, desktop computers and plenty of tables and chairs.
On the morning the doors opened, Kerri Celentano and her 3-year-old son Logan were in the children’s room looking at books and checking out the computers. “It’s awesome and humongous now,” Celentano said, adding, “We came to storytime all the time. It’s been a long winter and I am definitely happy we can come back.”
Lorenzo Belviacqua, 3, gave the new children’s room a ‘five’ holding up all the fingers on his right hand, and said it’s ‘awesome.”
Patrons, however, aren’t the only ones happy to see the library reopened. Although employees were busy ordering and processing materials, organizing and arranging the new space, planning programs and other responsibilities during the renovation and expansion, opening the doors to patrons again was something they, too, had been waiting months for.
“I woke up at 5:17 a.m. because I had a dream that no one came,” said Library Director Linda Hansen, adding, “Gratefully, that wasn't the case. We had people standing outside waiting for us to open the doors and have had a steady stream of people all morning.”
“It’s great to see people here. I missed everyone and so glad they are coming in,” Eve Pasternak, technical services librarian for South Plainfield since 2010. “It is kind of unbelievable. We were waiting and waiting for a new library and it’s great to finally have it.”
Mija Clemente, senior library assistant, added, “I am so excited to see everyone and hear how much they love this beautiful library.” Clemente added, “I definitely missed the little ones. It’s been way too long.”
While the South Plainfield Public Library was closed for construction, patrons were able to turn to neighboring libraries for services as well as keep materials for an extended time without accruing late charges. “Residents can starting bringing materials back whenever it is convenient for them. We are ready to accept them,” said Hansen, adding that a few weeks grace period will be allotted to those who have been holding onto items.
As director, and a resident of South Plainfield herself, Hansen said she is eager to show off the new library to patrons and spent much of Monday receiving positive feedback from patrons. “Everyone has had positive remarks and has come in with such good energy,” said Hansen. “There are more and more people every time I turn around.”
She added, “We have all waited a very long time for a facility that benefits our community, so I believe everyone will be very happy with our new building!”
The South Plainfield Memorial Library will hold a grand opening celebration on Saturday, March 5. “Now for new beginnings. We are hoping to see all of the residents at the grand opening, which will include the official ribbon cutting and our annual celebration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday,” said Tedesco Cullen, adding that the library board is currently finalizing the details for the grand opening and, once the timeframes have been finalized, they will be publicized on the library and borough websites as well as in the town’s papers.
Back to Business
The South Plainfield Memorial Library’s hours of operation are as follows: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1:30 to 5 p.m.
A free Valentines for Veterans drop-in program will take place Saturday, Feb. 6 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Monday Night Movies will resume Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m.; Book Club will meet Feb. 9 at 4 p.m.; Mystery Book Club will meet Feb. 17 at 4 p.m.; and Knitter & Chrochters Club is on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m.
All regular children’s programs will resume beginning Tuesday, Feb. 9. Storytimes will be held on Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. and Thursdays at 1:15 p.m.; Toddler Time on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.; Baby Time on Fridays at 10:15 a.m. (Session 1) and Fridays at 11:15 a.m. (Session II). Additionally, a new Family Storytime program will be held on Saturdays at 11 a.m., beginning Feb. 20.
Please note, the library will be closed Friday, Feb. 12 in observance of Lincoln’s birthday and Sunday, Feb. 14 and Monday, Feb. 15 for President’s Day. For additional information, program schedules and more, visit http://www.southplainfield.lib.nj.us or call (908) 754-7885.
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