By MADDY VITALE
The Ocean City Free Public Library has a host of events, in-person and virtual programming and a wide array of reading materials in all forms, giving just about something for everyone under one roof, keeping it a hub of activity for the community year-round.
The only problem is the building is dated, has a leaky roof and could use a few upgrades, according to library officials.
During the first OCFPL Board of Trustees meeting of the new year on Tuesday, officials gave updates on a plan to replace the roof and renovate the second floor, all in 2023.
The library is housed in the Ocean City Community Center at 1735 Simpson Ave.
“The project is happening and should be starting in the next two to three weeks. It is moving along,” Michael Allegretto, aide to Mayor Jay Gillian and representative on the library board, said of plans for a new roof.
The city is paying for the roof as part of a citywide capital improvements plan to upgrade facilities.
Renovations to the second floor have been a few years in the making. The project was stalled for a few years while the library unsuccessfully sought state funding to offset the estimated $1.3 million cost.
Now, and since the city already bonded for the project, the plan is to begin in the coming months.
“The only item for new business is we are getting ready to go out to bid for the second-floor renovation,” said Board President Jennifer Shirk, noting that it could be in the spring or summer.
The building improvements will consist of an expansion of the Young Adults section, new furnishings, brighter lighting and more quiet space for study time as well as “maker space” for do-it-yourself types of projects, officials said.
Architect William McLees, of William McLees Architecture in Somers Point, is designing the plan to modernize the facility and make it more user-friendly.
OCFPL Director Karen Mahar said that the exact figure may be different than the $1.3 million price tag announced earlier by the library.
“We are still setting up a time with Bill McLees,” Mahar said. “It changed a little. We still need a new estimate and the plan is still for spring or summer.”
There will be some additional building improvements that were not bonded for that the library put into the budget to set aside for the project totaling $50,000 Mahar noted.
Among other highlights of the board meeting was a discussion about the popular family activity called StoryWalk.
StoryWalk began being offered through the library as a way to enjoy reading outdoors when the COVID-19 pandemic began.
StoryWalk, which began in October 2020, is a reading program at Lake Memorial Park, 407 Wesley Ave. Families stroll along the park and read the books spread out on holders along the path.
The StoryWalk Project was created by Anne Ferguson in Montpelier, Vt., and developed in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library.
OCFPL Children’s Librarian Taimi Kelley brought the idea of doing one in Ocean City.
Every several months, a new book is put on display for families to peruse as they stroll along the park, whenever they choose.
“The winter program for StoryWalk is up,” Mahar said, adding that the latest book is titled “The Mitten.”
She noted the popularity of StoryWalk among local families.
Shirk, an author, added that she received a text message from a writer from Georgia who shared that she learned of the OCFPL StoryWalk and that it was a wonderful idea to emphasize reading.
“It is getting great publicity from other states,” Shirk pointed out. “It is really making a difference to all of the mothers who want to teach their children the importance of reading.”
Also during the meeting, there was a multitude of resolutions approved.
One was for the approval of board officers. Shirk remains as president, Fred Marcell as vice president, Dr. Constance Pritchard as treasurer and Lauren Cowden as secretary.
In addition, the board approved resolutions to hire for advertising, marketing, legal, auditing and custodial services.
To learn more about the Ocean City Free Public Library, located at 1735 Simpson Ave. in the Community Center, visit www.oceancitylibrary.org.