By Jay Cook |
HOLMDEL – Space for Holmdel’s new $1.7 million public library positioned inside the innovative and commercial hub of Bell Works was unveiled to hundreds of parents and children last week during an evening of behind-the-scenes tours.
While walls are still bare of books, computers wait to be installed and construction is ongoing in the children’s section, Holmdel Mayor Greg Buontempo believes the 18,000-square-foot library will be unparalleled when completed at the end of November.
“A lot of what we put in here is custom,” Buontempo said. “We didn’t want the library to be from out of a catalog. We wanted it to be distinct and unique.”
The joint library and learning center provides guests with a winding, light-filled experience from front to rear. It’s brushstroke design splits into four different sections: periodicals, research, collaborative and children.
Buontempo said the goal was to create a space for people “that almost feels like a home, an extension of their living room.”
All workstations around the perimeter of the library face toward windows. Patrons seated along the entrance will look in at the atrium and the remaining spaces throughout the library all look out through glass to the front entrance to Bell Works.
“It creates that environment where you are in a public space but you’re also in your own space,” Buontempo said. “It was a concept we worked hard to achieve.”
The facility, part of the Monmouth County Library System, will provide a number of perks to Holmdel and county residents:
- Two large conference rooms with seating for 169 and 80, respectively.
- Free access to digital research and reference tools like Ancestry.com, Morningstar Investment Research Center, EBSCO host journals, Hoover’s Online, Value Line, Small Business Reference Center, JSTOR Academic Journals and Weiss Insurance Ratings.
- A selection of subscription-based resources for law, medicine, arts, entertainment, employment, grants and politics.
- Access to more than 100 magazines, both current editions and archives.
- An up-to-date print collection with a dedicated children’s and teen wing.
- Plans for educational programs and services for children, teens and adults.
- Buontempo said the library will also feature a piece of history – a handmade radio built by world-renowned inventor Thomas Alva Edison. Buontempo said the radio was awarded to a former Bell Labs employee in 1921 after he won a science contest Edison hosted. The Smithsonian Institution and the Thomas Edison Center were interested in the radio for their respective museums, but the family donating the piece chose Bell Works, Buontempo said.
Moving the township library into Bell Works was always the endgame, Buontempo said. Holmdel’s current library is located in the basement at Town Hall, 1 Crawfords Corner Road, where it has been since 1981. The collection totals more than 51,000 items.
Holmdel resident Mike Sockol said the basement space is a far cry from what residents will soon enjoy.
“It’s not the greatest optical positioning for a library – in a basement, away from everything,” Sockol said after his Wednesday evening tour. “A centralized location is always very good.”
Sockol, also a former Monmouth County Library commissioner, believed Bell Works to be the right home for Holmdel’s new library.
“When you consider the history of this building, when you consider the dynamism that is occurring here, those are all good things to surround your library with,” he said.
After some smaller additions to the cost last month, the final tally for the new library is just shy of $1.8 million. Somerset Development president Ralph Zucker, who purchased Bell Works in 2013 for $27 million, donated $1 million towards the construction of the new library in January. Buontempo said the remaining money will be raised through fundraising and donations. Over $300,000 was brought in by a fundraiser earlier this year, and naming rights for the library could yield another $300,000 to $500,000 to cover the remaining costs, he said.
Zucker said Wednesday evening reminded him of traveling to the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore alongside his grandmother in years past. He recalled borrowing the children’s classic “Where the Wild Things Are,” authored and illustrated in 1963 by Maruice Sendak.
“The pages of a book allow your mind’s eye to see and to roam free. It allows you to imagine and think,” Zucker told a gathered crowd. “And in a way, that’s what Bell Works is all about.”
This article was first published in the Nov. 9-16, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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