The Lafayette section of Jersey City stepped into the limelight last week with the grand re-opening of its own library branch. Looking like a regular storefront on Pacific Avenue, the Lafayette Branch was dressed up with balloons and cheer as librarians opened the doors to the public for the first time in more than three months. Politicians and residents attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday were filed into a small, cozy library filled with books, color and optimism. As each speaker took the microphone and addressed the 100 people in attendance, a community struggling to build itself up was recognized. The library, many said, is a representation of Lafayette, ever improving and going in the right direction. "We needed a new paint job and a lot of new books," said Louvenia Best, communications specialist and head of the Lafayette Branch Library. The library, which has served Lafayette since 1924, has been wired for the Jersey City Library's automated circulation system and will include four public access Internet workstations. "This is sort of like a book store," Best said. "We give people what they want." Improvements include an enlarged children's section with special carpeting, a picture book house, an acquarium and graphics that stimulate an interest in reading. "This facelift has been long overdue," said Jason Jayne of the Lafayette Community Association. The facility has a new dropped ceiling and new fluorescent and track lighting, new wall-to-wall carpeting, new furniture, repainting and refinished shelving and a remodeled circulation desk and office for the staff. "I've seen it at its worst and at its best. I hope it's at its best now," Best said. "We're trying to change with the community." The construction, which replaced book displays, laid a colorful rug across the floor, and hung signs, took almost three months to complete. The final price tag is just under $40,000. Provident Bank, which has made public donations in the past, provided the branch with an enormous, engraved wood sign. "We wish you, especially the students who are our future, the best of luck in all of your endeavors," Provident Bank Chairman, CEO and President Paul Pantozzi said to the crowded library during the opening ceremonies. Like a carnival
For the ribbon-cutting event, the normally-quiet library was turned into a carnival atmosphere. The Seventh Grade Choir from Assumption/All Saints School provided smiles and song, while Leslie Njoku recited parts of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," and Crystal Hankerson read her composition "What the Library Means to Me." "A library is a necessary part of every community," longtime patron Delores Buchanan said. "Before, this was just a storefront and a rental space. There were second-hand books and old furniture, and everything gradually built up." One thing that the library still needs to do is increase its staff. Many people on hand were curious about the volunteer program that is vital to the facility's success. With a budget insufficient to keep a full-time staff on the payroll, regular borrowers are getting behind the counter to help out. "You can see five churches from the front step," Buchanan said, "so finding people shouldn't be terribly difficult." Buchanan, a member of an organization called 100 Black Women, presented the library with a donation for "little things that may not be budgeted for." "We are pleased to see the renovation of these smaller library branches," Ward F Councilwoman Melissa Holloway said, referring to the improvements done on the Pearsall Branch last fall. "It is hard to set a goal and complete it, and that's exactly what they've done here." "It's refreshing," Buchanan beamed. "It's completely a different environment for the patrons of the library and the children."