WEST ORANGE, NJ — The Board of Trustees of the West Orange Public Library (WOPL) recently unveiled the proposed design for a new state-of-the-art library facility to be located at 10 Rooney Circle.
Designed by Arcari + Iovino Architects, the new facility would feature more than 30,000 square feet spread across two separate floors, greatly increasing the capacity and usable programming space from the town’s existing facility, and increasing accessibility for residents by shifting the library to a more centrally located site.
Funded in part by a $3.1-million grant from the New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act, which was passed in 2017 to provide matching funding to public libraries for new construction and improvements, the proposed relocation project would see the West Orange Public Library receive new furnishings, aesthetic and environmental enhancements, upgrades to technology services and an expansion of resources including new computers, increased programming and courses for personal and professional development, and a significant increase in parking accommodations.
“Libraries are critical community institutions that serve local residents, providing learning and personal enrichment opportunities, which include affording access to computers and advanced technology that may not be otherwise available,” West Orange Public Library Board of Trustees President Marge Mingin said. “Though the limitations at our current facility are hampering our ability to serve the patrons of our community, the new library facility will allow us to be better equipped to meet their evolving needs.”
The existing West Orange Public Library facility, located at 46 Mt. Pleasant Drive and built in 1959, provides essential services to the community year-round. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the library has maintained regular operations, but continues to struggle to meet the needs of West Orange residents, many of whom rely on the library’s services and computers.
Due to its current decentralized location, decaying building with limited square feet, and lack of adequate parking, local residents are increasingly bypassing the West Orange library, instead choosing to visit alternative library options in neighboring towns with more modernized and well-resourced facilities. In fact, a recent survey conducted by WOPL staff found that out of the 47,000 West Orange residents, 37,000 have active library cards, yet 22 percent chose to check out books at neighboring libraries — far exceeding the 5- to 10-percent average among the 77 libraries included in the Bergen County Cooperative Library System, to which WOPL belongs.
Plans also include keeping a library annex at the 46 Mt. Pleasant Drive location to ensure a continuation of services for those who live close to the current library.
As part of the terms of the New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act grant, the funds allotted to the WOPL are mandated for the estimated $6-million relocation and rehabilitation project at the site of 10 Rooney Circle, a stipulation that cannot be transferred to an alternative site.
Further assisting the planned redevelopment, the building at 10 Rooney Circle will be deeded at no cost to the Township of West Orange as part of a public and private agreement between the township and Renova Equities.
“Since I joined the WOPL more than six years ago, I’ve continuously explored avenues and options to enhance our library conditions — both from a physical standpoint as well as an operational one,” said WOPL Director David Cubie. “We’re now presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deliver a new, state-of-the-art facility with significant cost benefits. When you factor in our ability to activate the $3.1-million grant provided by the state, this is a clear win-win situation for Township of West Orange and all of its residents.”