With phase one of the Verona Public Library complete, the library is now ready for phase two, which will transform the space into an inviting and multi-functional facility.
Township Engineer Jim Helb and Frank Messineo of Solutions Architecture, LLC presented the town council and the public with their plans for phase two of the library renovation at the March 20 Town Council meeting. While phase one addressed the children's room and the young adult room, phase two will focus on the library as a whole and will make the library handicap-accessible.
"We're trying to maintain the integrity of the Carnegie library," Helb said. "Which is very important to our community and certainly to the public."
The Verona Public Library is one of the only functioning Carnegie libraries left in the state of New Jersey and Helb said keeping it that way is crucial.
The goal of this phase of the renovation is to eliminate the lack of handicap access to the third floor and the first floor and to make the rest of the library match what was recently done to the children's room and the young adult room.
"Our recently renovated children's wing and young adult wing -- those two wings have been completed up to a level of standard that the rest of the library would be brought up to under this project," Messineo said.
Phase two will address ADA compliance with vertical circulation and with restrooms. In order to fix these problems, an elevator will be added, as well as handicap-accessible restrooms on every level. In addition to to the elevator and restrooms, the renovation includes new lighting, heating, finishes, and bookcases, among other features. An addition onto the back of the library is also part of the plan, and will allow for more space for reading and relaxing.
On the lower level, there will be a meeting room, staff workroom, technical services room, stroller parking, additional storage and staff offices. The main floor will be reorganized, with the circulation desk being moved from the center of the area to the left side of the room. The main floor will include a meeting area in the center of the floor, an additional reading area, the director and assistant director's offices and another entrance. The upper level will include a new conference room, a reading area, an area for people to use their laptops and a cafe area, which will possibly house a Keurig or other coffee machine.
This cafe area was one of particular interest to Deputy Mayor Michael Nochimson, who said that instead of just a coffee machine, a satellite coffee shop of a potential downtown coffee shop would be ideal, especially since the town has been looking to add a coffee shop downtown. An area with plumbing and electric, as well as a counter for a worker to stand behind would allow for coffee and a pastry case, which Nochimson said would make for a great place to hang out.
"To me, a new library is having a library that has a functioning coffee bar or something," Nochimson said. "We're talking about a magnet to attract the youth, the parents, the children."
Messineo said the cafe area that is already in the plan will have a refrigerator, an 11-foot counter space, a sink, plumbing and the ability to add electric for a pastry case.
Another concern the council had was the relocation of the library collection and if this collection would be available to the public while the library is under construction. In order to make some of the library's collection available to the public, the community center annex offices were cleared out to allow for all 8,100 adult fiction books, 300-400 new adult fiction and nonfiction books, 200 paperback books, 5,000 children's books and 2,000 DVDs. The children's nonfiction and adult nonfiction collections will be in storage and will be unavailable to the public, but any books put in storage will be available through the PALS Plus Consortium, Director Cheryl Ashley said.
"I want the people to know they still have a place to go to," Ashley said. "They'll still see the staff. We'll still be doing the programming."
The total cost of the construction is about $2.9 million, which includes interior renovations, a new fire alarm system, new lighting, and the new elevator, among other things. The project is expected to take about 18 months to complete with the library opening back up in fall 2018.
All of the council members agreed that this project is long overdue and is something that the town of Verona needs.
"I'm just thrilled that this is finally coming to fruition," Councilman Bob Manley said. "The time has come for us to reinvest in that beautiful facility."