A Light-Filled Library Of The Future

January 31, 2017
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Bell Works, at 101 Crawford’s Corner Road, will be the future site on the Holmdel public library, to be located on the left side of the entrance.

By Christina Johnson|

HOLMDEL – For many years, Holmdel’s busy public library has been housed in a windowless basement of the Town Hall. Parking on the driveway circle can be tough. There are few quiet spots to settle down in solitude. As modern municipal libraries go, it’s small.

But that is expected to change by the end of 2017, when a Holmdel municipal library four times the size will open for business down the road in a well-appointed, bright and airy space just past the main entrance at the newly rejuvenated Bell Works indoor business mall, at 101 Crawfords Corner Road. Details were announced Jan. 12 at a public presentation of the plans at Bell Works’ soaring atrium.

“You’re going to be sick of daylight,” promised Lead Project Architect Anthony Iovino, citing the library’s north facing wall of 150 linear feet of glass. He enthusiastically described a space that will be divided into areas by flowing, curvilinear walls, providing breathing room and spaces designed for collaboration or silence, and where collections have the ability to expand “instead of being filled up on day one,” said Iovino, of Arcari + Iovino Architects in Little Ferry, NJ. The library will also be a showcase for historical artifacts and narratives from the famous Bell Labs facility, the site of important innovations.

The space for the new 13,000 square foot library has been provided by Bell Works developer Somerset Development, as part of its redevelopment agreement with the township. At the event, president Ralph Zucker presented the township with an oversized replica of a $1 million check representing the company’s donation for the construction of the facility. It will be run by the Monmouth County Library System, which will provide the materials and personnel, likely requiring two full time librarians, 3-5 circulation aides and a full time children’s librarian for the dedicated children’s and teen wing. The space has its own 80-seat meeting room, a nice size for cultural events, performances and speakers. It will be furnished by the township, which also will control one of its even larger meeting rooms.

Entrance of Bell Works in Holmdel.

“It’s really wonderful to see Holmdel get the library they deserve,” said county Library Director Judith Tolchin. “It’s a very educated, tech savvy community.” She gave credit to the people behind the scenes for their “perseverance imagination and creative energy,” citing Freeholder Director Lilian Burry, the liaison to the Library Commission, and Freeholder Serena DiMaso, Holmdel’s former mayor, who was there when discussions to house the library at Bell Works began in earnest in 2008.

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Other elected officials who were involved in the project, and who were present for the announcement with a crowd that some estimated to be between 400-500 people, were current Holmdel Committeemen Pat Impreveduto, Eric Hinds and Greg Buontempo, all three of whom have served as mayor during the years of negotiation with Bell Works. “I’m ecstatic,” said Impreveduto, noting the vibrancy that night in the building dormant for a decade, and the fact that 60 percent of the 2 million square foot building has been leased out in Somerset Development’s vision of a mixed use “metroburb” for the future, which could eventually include technology, traditional office, retail, dining and hospitality.

Said Impreveduto, “I’m just so proud it came to fruition.”

Just like any Monmouth County branch library, anyone can use the new Holmdel library, which can be accessed at Bell Works, located just one mile from Exit 114 of the Parkway. Monmouth County residents who live in a town that participates in the county network can borrow materials; others would buy an access card.

Bell Works, future library’s north facing wall of 150 linear feet of glass.

Tolchin imagines the demands of office and retail workers from the mall’s technology businesses will shape the library’s offerings, which is ready to respond with wi-fi lounges, laptop charging stations, digital and video materials, and on-demand self-serve printing services for patrons who can use their smartphones to send print jobs to the library – like a boarding pass or a copy of a presentation – and have it waiting for them in a queue at the library.

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It can be the right place to test new digital initiatives, such as a plan in the works that will send smartphone users friendly notifications when their books become available.

Like the current library, it would be open 44 hours a week, though there may be talk of extending the hours if there is demand, said Tolchin.

Mayor Buontempo said he sees the new library at Bell Works as a new destination for people to go, in a town where there aren’t many places to for casual gathering. The space can be a place where professionals meet, students hang out in study groups, audiences gather to hear speakers on special evenings, and children can go for activities while parents browse the shelves. “I think all ages are going to use it,” he said.

Holmdel branch librarian Karen Nealis said her favorite features of the new library will be an area just for teens and a separate children’s room – and to get out of the windowless basement. “I’m thrilled,” she said.

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