At the March 16 Borough Council meeting, Alfred H. Baumann Library Director Linda Hoffman led a Library construction grant presentation to provide more information about the project to the Council and the public.
The Council, that night, passed a resolution to execute a grant agreement with the state and introduced an ordinance to authorize the project, which essentially guarantees the full project funding and will allow the Library to commence construction on the project.
The Library’s construction campaign and plan, entitled “Imagine the Possibilities,” asks every resident to join them in making its vision for a 21st Century library a reality. It was recently awarded a $2.9 million New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act grant, the largest grant the Borough has ever received. Woodland Park was only 10 public libraries in the state to receive an award for a large project.
The total for the construction project stands at $5.8 million, and it will take a true community effort and investment to make the plan a reality.
In addition to the state grant, the Library has a $1.8 million municipal equity contribution (bond) commitment, has received Community Block Development Grants for $135,000, has over $1 million in Library Capital Reserve, and has $50,000 committed and an additional $25,000 pledged by the Friends of the Library.
In addition, the Woodland Park Business Association donated $5,000, the American Legion Auxiliary donated $750, and residents have made individual donations in varying amounts of up to $5,000.
“Every day when I go to work I am reminded that a public library is one of the community’s most valuable resources,” Hoffman said. “This is what drives me, my staff, my library board, and our Friends to work so hard with passion and fearlessness – because we believe in public libraries!”
The needs of the Library have been changing and evolving. According to the 2020 Census Data, over the last 40 years, the population increased 19%. Over just the last 10 years, Woodland Park’s population grew 14.1%. New Jersey’s population overall grew 5.5%.
A more detailed breakdown of the Borough’s residents:
• 20.1% (about 2,711 residents) are 65 years and older
• 22.1% (about 2,980) are under 18 years old
• 6.4% (about 863) are veterans
• 42.3% (about 5,703) – more than a third of the population – speak a language other than English at home
• 8.1% (about 1,092) are disabled
• 11.4% (about 1,537) are living at poverty level
Old wiring and infrastructure, HVAC in need of upgrades, old and heavy furniture, lack of ADA compliance, and lack of office and programming space are just a few reasons for the project’s need.
Hoffman showcased both the exterior and interior design in her presentation. The exterior of the new building blends with the current building but feels updated and modern. The building will allow light to fill the interior with its cascading modules flanking the Brophy Lane side. The pinnacle in the front is intended to compliment the neighboring Municipal Building.
The interior design includes a larger children area that will accommodate all children, including special needs children; a teen area; a lounge area where people can grab a cup of coffee; and an Innovation Lab with computers, 3D printers, and media equipment, not only for children to create, but for use by adults and entrepreneurs.
A large conference and community room will be able to host programs and community group meetings. This space can be used even when the main library is closed.
A generator will provide emergency power for outages in a natural disaster. And in the back of the Library, an amphitheater will be constructed to bring theater, culture, and music to a beautiful setting.
The Library will work to continue to raise funds for the project through a variety of capital campaigns. There will be a town-wide brochure going out in April, a 60th Birthday Campaign in May ($60 for 60 years), a round-up "For Your Library Campaign", a portfolio for large donors and naming opportunities, and ongoing Friends of the Library events. Additional grants will be sought to offset the cost.
"The vote tonight is to essentially guarantee the funding," Mayor Kazmark said after Hoffman's presentation. "The plan is not to fund any of this project through debt service," he explained. "We will continue to fundraise. You do not leave a $2.9 million grant on the table for someone else."
The Friends are planning the following: Casino Night on April 29 at The Brownstone, 2.5K9 Walk (2.5K for dogs and their humans) on Sept. 18; 50/50s in the spring and fall, Sweet Sensations Dessert Night on Oct. 15, and “Let’s Eat” Dinners to Go on Nov. 18.