By John Burton
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS – Jim Plumaker couldn’t have been happier with the opening of the new and expanded public library.
“It’s really important to me and my family,” said Plumaker, a borough resident who has three children, ages16, 11 and 5.
“One of the things I like to do is come to the library to get the kids out of the house,” particularly in the winter, he said.
“They have nice programs here and it’s free.
“It really is a great library.”
Plumaker was on hand last Thursday as local and county officials, employees and others celebrated the library’s grand opening.
The capacity crowd appeared to agree with Plumaker, as they offered their take on the new facility.
Marilyn Scherfen, the library’s branch manager, wore a broad smile as she put her arms way up in the air when she announced, “We’re finally done.
“This is truly an ‘ah’ moment,” Scherfen said.
The “ah” stands for both the initials of the borough and the obvious relief now that the project is completed, she said.
The borough’s new library stands at about 4,000 square feet; a considerable enlargement over its previous 1,600 square feet.
The library, located in the borough municipal complex, 100 First Ave., was done in conjuncture with the renovation and expansion of the entire facility.
That project took about two-and-a-half years and cost roughly $6 million.
Mayor Frederick J. Rast and the six-member borough council undertook the project that had bipartisan support. The governing body decided to move forward with the project as the existing borough hall, which contains government offices, police headquarters and library, had become increasingly cramped for modern needs. The building did not meet federal handicap accessibility requirements and had mold and moisture issues that would have been exceedingly expensive to address in the existing structure, officials have said previously.
All that was certainly true of the library, which occupied the building’s lower level.
In the past the library was without windows. Now, Scherfen said, there is more room light and air for the library’s 22,000 items. The new library also now has separate rooms for children’s programs and other material.
While the building was under construction, the library moved its operation to the field house of the Fireman’s Field sports field area, on Avenue C.
In the interim, local officials negotiated with Monmouth County library representatives to have the borough library become a county branch and be operated under county management. That move made the borough facility the 13th county branch and saved the municipality upward of $130,000, Freeholder Lillian Burry said.
Scherfen stressed “how important the intellectual infrastructure is to all of us.”
Scherfen, quoting Confucius, said: “You cannot open a book without learning something.
“The same is true of libraries,” she added.
Lynn Sternberg shared Scherfen’s joy about the new library. “It’s been very exciting to see this happen,” Sternberg said, as she guided her 5-year-old daughter, CarlyRose, through the children’s room. “We used to come for story time every week,” Sternberg said.
“I like to read a lot,” CarlyRose said.
Jack Sanders, 11, also likes this library and libraries in general. “It’s a place to help kids with their homework and it lets them read new books,” he said, as he sat with a book about professional football. “I’m a big sports guy. I read a lot of sports.
“Ever since they opened it,” he said of the library, “I’ve been here every day.”