There are more than 35,000 books in the Verona Public Library‘s collection. Normally, many go from the library’s shelves to a Verona home and back, a quick round trip. Next month, they will all be going on a long, unusual journey when the library is completely cleared of books so that it can get its first makeover in more than 60 years.
On April 24, the Verona Public Library will close to book borrowers for perhaps as long as 18 months to facilitate a construction project that will put an addition on the Gould Street side, add meeting space for children and adults, clear space for new computer terminals, make reading by the stacks as inviting as it is in a modern bookstore and add an elevator that will finally make every floor of the building compatible with the Americans With Disabilities Act. The project will be funded by a $3.4 million municipal bond and a $326,214 Community Development Block Grant–maybe one of the last CDBGs that Verona will ever get. (The new federal budget calls for eliminating the program.)
But Verona won’t be without books while all this is going on. The library is going to be relocated to the two upper floors of the Verona Community Center’s Annex, along with about one-third of its books. According to Director Cheryl Ashley, movers will be transferring 8,100 works of adult fiction, 400 non-fiction books, 200 paperbacks, 5,000 children’s books, 1,000 young adult books, all 2,000 of the library’s DVDs, an assortment of audiobooks and all 103 current magazine issues. The rest will be put into storage. “We’re also going to continue to buy new books,” Ashley says. “And when we run out of space, the movers will come and take some other books to storage.”
(Worried that your favorite titles won’t be among those sent to the Annex? Verona is part of an inter-library loan program called PALS Plus that can bring in books from nearly three dozen libraries across northern New Jersey in a matter of days. More about that here.)
The renovation is the final phase of the library modernization that began last summer with the Children’s Room. Early last fall, the former Reference Room was transformed into a new reading and learning space for tweens and teens. Both of these rooms are in wings that were added to the original Carnegie Library structure after World War II. What remained untouched was the core of the building, which dates to 1923. As most library patrons know, the core of the building has stacks of fiction books under a second-floor balcony where periodicals are kept. What no one knew, until the renovation’s architect mapped out a plan for the new work, is that those shelves are actually load-bearing supports. “It’s a pretty ingenious design,” says Frank Messineo, of Verona-based Solutions Architecture, which did the renovations of both the Children’s Room and Young Adult Room.
Messineo’s plan will replace those book stacks with eight much-needed computer stations but keep the character of the old building intact. Its fireplace mantle will be restored and it will become the focal point of the periodicals collection, with new comfortable seating. The circulation desk will be moved from right behind the front door to the left wall, and its original location will become a display space for new fiction and non-fiction titles. The staff office that is behind the young adult room on the ground floor will become what is known as a Maker Space, a place where young tinkerers and inventors can gather and work on their creations. (Verona High School’s library, now known as the Arthur Acquaviva Learning Commons, also has a Maker Space, and there’s a Maker Club at H.B. Whitehorne.) Upstairs, Ashley’s current office will be turned into a small meeting room. There will be new woodwork, lighting and seating throughout, as well as a designated space to park strollers inside.
But the biggest change to the library will come on the Gould Street side of the building, where a two-story addition–plus new basement space–will house a new children’s activity room and new reading areas, improved archive space and new featured space sfor the library’s local history, UNICO and Landsberger collections. “The staff is excited because there will be so much more space for displays,” says Ashley. “Merchandising is everything.”
Even with the carefully planned renovation, library patrons will need to be flexible. The Wednesday reading club will be relocated to the ballroom in the main community center building. But the library still needs space, in the VCC or elsewhere, for its children’s story times. Ashley also wants to find some way to accommodate the middle school kids who gather to study and do homework in the young adult room after school. (The Friends of the Verona Public Library may not been able to hold its used book sales during renovation because there is no place to store and organize all the books that come in.)
“We are committed to bringing the public 100% full service during the renovation,” Ashley says. “We’re not going to change our hours. We’re going to have the same staff they love. And if we don’t have the book, we will get it for them.”
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