On May 26, 2020, Scotch Plains Township and the Scotch Plains Public Library Board submitted a grant application to the State for a new public Library of approximately 25,000 square feet. Grant funds have been made available through the Library Construction Bond Act passed by New Jersey voters in November 2017, which authorized $125 million in state bonds to support the rehabilitation and construction of modern and technologically efficient Library facilities. Libraries can be awarded up to half the cost of rehabilitation or construction through the grant program. The cost of our new Library is projected to be $12 million and we are seeking half the amount ($6 million) through the grant. It is expected that we will hear back regarding the grant by the end of 2020, although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may shift timelines.
The existing Scotch Plains Library is a 14,000 square foot building built in the mid 1960's that is no longer capable of meeting our community’s needs. As use of the Library has increased over the years, the Library Board of Trustees has done its best to meet these demands by providing additional services as the Library has become a community resource center operating well beyond its capacity. It is not economically feasible to renovate or expand the existing building. The new 25,000 square foot Library is designed to incorporate traditional Library services with modern technology and resources. The new Library will provide programs, resources, information and Library services that will ensure the well-being and success of our community now and well into the 21st Century.
As seen in the proposed site plan below, the new Library will be located off of Bartle Avenue on existing municipal property. Alternative sites in Scotch Plains were considered but the site proposed was determined to be the best site available to the Township considering the space and footprint of the building needed and available locations in the downtown area. The Township considers it crucial that the Library be located in the downtown area.
* Click on graphic above to enlarge the redevelopment site plan image for the Scotch Plains Public Library.
Public libraries play a significant role in supporting economic development and businesses in their communities. The proposal for a new Scotch Plains Public Library is part of our larger downtown redevelopment vision and will be the hub of our redeveloped downtown, conveniently located within walking distance of schools, businesses, residential areas, and new residential units being planned for construction through redevelopment.
The new Library will be dedicated and designed to incorporate both traditional and 21st Century Library services. The programs and services of the new Library will attract residents and visitors from the broader area generating much-needed foot traffic downtown thus spurring economic development and investment downtown. Studies show that proximity to a Library increases spending at the businesses located near the Library.
Given its central location and the important role the Library plays in any community, the vision for the new Library includes a public plaza which will be contiguous to the Library entrance. This public open space will be an important component to the Library for outdoor programs and events, which will attract even more people to our downtown center.
The presence of a new Library will also increase local property values and the economic development it will incentivize will lead to the expansion of our tax base. The Library will also be a key partner in economic development efforts by providing resources and information to local entrepreneurs such as technology, databases, and reference materials. Libraries foster growth and development by promoting early literacy, school readiness, technological skills, and providing resources to meet and develop workforce skills The large, flexible and divisible multi-purpose room featured in the new Library can be sub-divided to offer related programs such as job fairs, resume writing classes, and SAT prep to address the growing career and educational needs of our community. Simply put, the educational and programming opportunities in the new Library will create a smarter and better educated workforce, building a stronger economy in the long-run.
The Library’s mission is to provide our entire community with resources and services to enhance life-long learning. Expanding our facility will further this mission by providing a greater opportunity for civic, educational, and informational initiatives that a 21st Century community requires. More comprehensive programming in areas such as career counseling, preventative health, financial literacy, computer skills, after-school activities, summer learning activities, and programming for community seniors.
Due in part to its location, a large number of school age children use the Library every day after school. The existing building does not have the capacity to adequately serve these students.
The new building will expand our ability to provide programs and services to our younger patrons. An important function of libraries is to instill in young children a love of reading and learning. The new Library building will greatly increase our ability to offer educational and entertaining programs for younger children. The new building will include a space dedicated for community teens. The dedicated teen space will encourage teens to socialize, read, learn, and participate in our programs.
Currently, the Library has a strong health literacy initiative. We have curated both print and online consumer health resources and regularly do wellness programming, such as partnering with our Township Health Department to provide free blood pressure screening or “Storytime Yoga” for young children. A larger building with multiple and flexible program spaces will enable us to expand the scope of our health literacy initiative, having a positive effect on quality of life in our community.
The existing Library has only a limited technical infrastructure available for patrons consisting of wireless and wired networks to support both staff and patron resources. The new Library is designed with current technology, which will be easily adaptable to future technology developments. The new Library will provide separate computer areas for adults, children and teens with a separate tech lab space that will enable the Library to conduct age appropriate computer and internet instructional programs. The open floor plan will facilitate better Wi-Fi signal and a secure network will be installed throughout the building. Further, the building expands the space available to the Library for storage of data and server equipment. The Library currently provides a very robust offering of electronic web-based services, some of which depend on in-house equipment.