By Maddy Vitale
Nearly every day, the Ocean City Free Public Library offers the community a host of activities, not to mention its vast collection of reading materials.
From events in lecture halls, to sign language classes, story time for children and the popular weekly reading club for young adults, there is always something for its visitors to enjoy.
Soon there will be a lot more to please library guests.
Plans are moving ahead for a $1.3 million renovation to the second floor. Library Director Karen Mahar and Ocean City officials say the project is on track to start this fall and will include extensive renovations to really showcase the facility as the gem of the Ocean City Community Center.
The library, located in the Community Center, 1735 Simpson Ave., needs some improvements, officials said. It was built in 1990 and expanded in 2008, but has not undergone a renovation since then.
Poor lighting on the second floor, the need for more quiet spaces and just an overall aesthetic lift have been needed for quite some time, officials said.
But with the hefty price tag, officials had to work out the details of what needed to be done and for how much. Members of the library’s Board of Trustees and city officials agreed on the best way to ensure the project is built without placing a burden on taxpayers.
Funding for the renovation project will come from the city’s library tax. Mahar said the library tax will not increase to finance construction.
Here is a link to the rendering: https://ocnjdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/library-renovation-rendering-2.pdf
The library is eligible for funds in a state grant program that will be announced this spring, which would offset the cost of the project.
In the meantime, the city agreed to bond the project, which was laid out by Ocean City’s Director of Finance Frank Donato during his Capital Plan presentation to City Council on Thursday night.
“The library staff and I are very excited to move forward with the library’s second floor renovation plan,” Mahar said. “We are excited to be working with the city and Frank Donato on bonding the project. We are working with the architect and city officials on a fall of 2019 construction start date.”
Donato noted during his presentation that the library would apply for grants and that would help pay for the cost of the project.
“The library board has been looking to redesign the second floor – they have the estimate of $1.3 million. The library board will pay for it, but the city will bond it and they would commit to pay it back through a yearly bond payment,” Donato said.
Ocean City Public Information Officer Doug Bergen praised the library.
“Ocean City is fortunate to have the best library in the state, and the entire Community Center complex is an incredible resource,” Bergen said. “We’re all looking forward to seeing the improvements. Our library has always been a leader in adapting to the times.”
Bergen continued, “Under (former library director) Chris Maloney and Karen Mahar, the library has remained essential, not just for printed books, but for online resources, digital music and movies, computer services, community meetings and a vast array of special programs and activities.”
The goal of the project is to create larger, brighter spaces, modernize the facility, make it more user-friendly and improve the aesthetics. The design is by architect William McLees of William McLees Architecture in Somers Point.
Renovations to the second floor include better lighting, an expansion of the “young adults” section and new furnishings.
Lighting is also a vital component to the plan. Mahar said that the lighting on the second floor simply isn’t bright enough.
The project also calls for more “maker space” in an area that would include computers, a 3D printer, audio and video equipment and even sewing machines.
One of the major parts of the renovation project is the creation of more “quiet space” for study sessions.
There will be four additional rooms. Currently, there is just one, and it is on a first come, first served basis. In the future, patrons will be able to reserve the rooms.
For more information visit the Ocean City Free Public Library at www.oceancitylibrary.org or call 609-399-2434.