By Jay Cook |
HOLMDEL – Attention Monmouth County residents who haven’t stepped inside a library in a while. You’ll want to renew your card.
After months of construction and years of planning, a brand-new, light-drenched spacious library officially opened its doors Monday inside the bustling “metroburb” Bell Works building in Holmdel.
After occupying the small, windowless basement of Town Hall for 36 years, the new Holmdel Library and Learning Center – a $1.7 million, open-concept library – is now situated in the heart of Holmdel’s most distinguished draw for businesses and residents.
“We now have a destination library in a destination building,” said Donna Mansfield, programming director for the Monmouth County Library System. “We couldn’t be more pleased.”
Mansfield, who also serves as the chief librarian at the county library headquarters in Manalapan, had long looked forward to its opening. For 17 years she managed a software development group for AT&T and Lucent Technologies inside the same 2 million-square-foot building until her retirement in 2001.
Characteristics like the “industrial look” and “fresh furniture” stood out to Mansfield as she toured the space for the first time.
“That building had been such a big part of my life and for many of the people in Monmouth County,” she said. “It’s really going to attract people not only because there’s a new and fresh concept, but for its history and the relationship so many have had with the building.”
Preparing the library for the opening on Monday afternoon took months, but did happen on schedule according to estimations from Holmdel officials. The collection of more than 51,000 items were first transferred from the former library at Town Hall to Bell Works on Dec 6., about a month after the Nov. 1 ribbon cutting held by Monmouth County, Holmdel and Bell Works officials.
The 18,000-square-foot center boasts 60 bookshelves and about four times more space than its predecessor at 4 Crawfords Corner Road. With secluded sections for private reading, laptop bars along windows looking inside and outside Bell Works and a children’s section in the back, the modern space has the room to accommodate everyone.
“It creates that environment where you are in a public space but you’re also in your own space,” Holmdel Mayor Greg Buontempo said at the Nov. 1 ribbon cutting. “It was a concept we worked hard to achieve.”
Holmdel residents Neha Aggarwal, 28, and her mother, Raj, walked through the library a few hours after it opened on Monday evening and, by their account, so far, so good.
“It’s a really open place,” said Neha Aggrawal, “and it seems very new with lots of space for studying.”
The overall size stood out to her when she first walked in, she said, saying she noticed “just how big it is and the way it’s set up – there’s a very modern look to it. Almost like how a museum is set up.”
Felipe Pastor made a visit on Monday and took some time to inspect the Thomas Alva Edison handmade radio on display inside a glass case. The radio was awarded to a former Bell Laboratories employee as a 16-year-old in 1921 and his family donated it to Holmdel for inclusion in the library.
“I find it absolutely remarkable that this building is still alive,” Pastor said, adding that “having a public library in a place like this is makes it probably the most incredible library around.”
Also a Holmdel homeowner, Pastor said he was pleased to know his tax dollars went to good use. “I think it’s public money well invested with having the library here,” he said.
Not everyone was a fan, though. Paul and Mary Dowd, Holmdel residents of over five decades, were frank about their opinion of the new space. It’s now the third library they’ve used in Holmdel.
“Are you going to ask me if I like this or not? Because I don’t,” Mary Dowd said.
As a senior, she said the long walk just to find the library, along with a dearth of handicap accessibility features outside the building made the trip to return a book more difficult than it should’ve been. Dowd said she preferred the former library at Town Hall considering its distance from the parking lot, as well as an elevator.
“It’s not convenient for us even though we live a little more than a mile away,” she said. “It’s just not.”
Dowd may be relieved to learn on her next trip two drive-up library book drops are installed in the front parking lot.
With a few children’s programs kicking off the grand opening earlier this week, Mansfield, the programming coordinator, said the branch would look into technology, science and history programs down the road. A schedule for children’s events has been set for January and a complete list can be found online.
The library is located at 101 Crawfords Corner Road inside Bell Works. If entering the building by foot from the front entrance, make an immediate left turn and walk about 100 feet to the library entrance. Hours of operation are Monday and Wednesday, 1 to 9 p.m.; Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Friday, 1 to 5 p.m. The library is closed on Sundays.
The library will be closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 15.
For more information, visit MonmouthCountyLib.org or call the Holmdel branch at 732-946-4118.
This article was first published in the Dec. 21-28, 2017 print edition of the Two River Times.
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