Ten years after it opened its doors at its current location at 1379 Paterson Plank Road, people still call the Secaucus library new.
This is only partly due to the upkeep that makes the place look as good as it did when it first opened its doors 10 years ago. Much of it has to do with the forethought that went into the design of the facility, giving this small town library features that are still considered ahead of their time.
The library held an event on Sunday, June 2 to celebrate 10 years in the new building.
Ahead of its time
Kathleen Moellen-Peiffer, deputy state library director, said Secaucus was ahead of nearly every library in the state in the development of its computer access and business resource center, and that its children’s section was unlike any she had seen before her first visit here in 2006.
Former Secaucus Library Director Kathy Steffens said the library benefits from a number of contributors, people and businesses who invested early with money and resources.
Some of these donations come in the memory of a loved one, such as the Steven Strobert Foundation that donates to the young adult section every year. Strobert perished as a result of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. As a kid, he frequented the old library, Steffens said.
“I always felt bad. Because of the lack of room, we didn’t have what he wanted, so I had to send him to another library in Jersey City.” she said.
The foundation gave money to the library to establish the Steven Strobert Young Adult Learning Center.
Names of some of important people in the history of the library were also preserved there, such as Alice Rudlinger – a long time member of the library board and avid supporter of the library – and Margret Grazioli, who served as library director under whom the plans for the new library were originally formulated.
“It’s celebrating service in a building that’s fully accessible to all members of our community.” – Library Director Jenifer May
Many of the faces that came to celebrate were those who had been here a decade ago, grayer but no less cheerful, full of vigor and in some sense, having a feeling of accomplishment.
Service to the town
Jennifer May, current library director, cited programs and services that would not have been possible without the move to the new building.
“It’s celebrating service in a building that’s fully accessible to all members of our community,” she said.
Although a ramp had been installed at the old building, the tiny space did not allow for easy maneuverability for wheelchairs, and the toilet facilities in the basement were not accessible at all.
She said the children’s section is large and offers a wider range of programming, and includes a children’s outdoor reading garden.
The new building also allowed the library to expand its adult section, including a dedicated literacy and English and Second Language collection, parenting section, and collections that include New Jersey gemology collection. The library has also been able to expand its audiovisual section as well. The library has become a venue for various social groups and clubs.
“We had about seven computers in the old library to just about 70 in this building,” May said.
The library also provides Wi-Fi access for people with portable computers of their own.
“In that last 10 years, thousands of residents have used our study rooms,” she said. “We also have more meeting space where we have had concerts and workshops.”
In the past
The new $3 million facility at 1379 Paterson Plank Road replaced the Plaza Center building, which was constructed in the early 1960s.
Plans for the library actually started in the early 1970s. Under the leadership of then Library Director Margaret Grazioli (for whom the children’s wing of the new library is named), the trustees began to investigate options to expand the Plaza library.
But money remained an issue during the 1970s and 1980s. The trustees and town could not come up with the necessary funds for reconstruction. Wise investments and increased revenues due to a significant increase in business and other development allowed the trustees to squirrel away enough so that by 1992, they could make more solid plans for expansion. But serious obstacles remained.
The limited parking at the Plaza site would not meet the minimum legal requirements set by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. The older building also failed to meet basic requirements for handicap accessibility under federal law.
In 1998, the town, under then-Mayor Anthony Just, purchased land on Paterson Plank Road with the idea of moving the firehouse out of the library and allowing the library to expand there. In 1999, these plans were scrapped, and under Mayor Dennis Elwell a year later, the town decided to build a new library on the Paterson Plank Road property instead. This required the town to use the $1 million of library money as well as to bond for additional cash to cover the rest of the cost.
Donations from businesses, civic organizations and individuals not only furnished the new library with up-to-date equipment, new book shelves, and additional computers, but with a business resource center.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.