Newark Library Reveals Gleaming New Lobby
A new light at The Newark Public Library shines through its refurbished lobby and new doors; it gleams on the restored marble floors, the cherry-stained custom millwork, fluted columns and crown molding and illuminates all the other changes that have been made in the first phase of the project to renovate and expand one of the jewels in the city’s civic crown.
"There is new energy at the Newark Public Library," said Director Wilma J. Grey who was named to the leadership position this summer. "We have renovated five of the library’s neighborhood branches; now its time to focus on the main building downtown."
City and library officials revealed the work in progress at an 11 a.m. dedication ceremony today followed by a guided tour of the refurbished sections of the lobby area.
"The lobby now features a modern checkout desk and attractive shelves laden with a wider assortment of books," Grey said. The library's collection of audiovisual materials has been expanded and relocated to the Media Center, adjacent to the atrium where there is plenty of browsing room.
"In the past, we were saddled with a much smaller entry that did not provide the elegant entrance that the sweeping grandeur of the building and its magnificent lobby deserved," said Grey. "Now the lobby has been restored to its Italian Renaissance splendor. Traffic flow through the building and such services to the public as check-in/check-out; have been improved to offer a more efficient and more pleasant library experience.
"The completion of this first stage in the plans to enlarge and refurbish The Newark Public Library will bring about a marriage of modern technology to the opulence of the past," said Newark Mayor Sharpe James. "There is now a beautiful sweeping entrance into the Library from Washington Park, which is in keeping with the city’s ongoing revitalization and the cornerstone of the redevelopment of the James Street neighborhood." James said.
Grey and James joined together to thank The Prudential Foundation 125th Anniversary Fund and the New Jersey State Library Public Library Construction Bond Program for helping finance the first phase of the construction. The Prudential Foundation donated $1 million to the project, while the state gave $300,505 from its NJ State Library Construction Bond Funds program for the lobby renovation. The City of Newark also provided financial support to the project.
"The newly restored Central Library brings a fresh vitality to Newark's downtown area, and we are proud to be a part of elevating it to the next level," said Gabriella Morris, president of The Prudential Foundation. "The library plays an important role as a regional hub for information, history and culture, and we believe that its renovation not only benefits the city, but the entire state of New Jersey."
"Its lobby renovation is the first step in enabling The Newark Public Library to fulfill its destiny as an educational institution, a recreational center, a civic leader and a repository for New Jersey culture, history and literature," Grey said.
"We are pleased to see that this historic building has undergone renovations that will help transform Newark for the 21st century," said Norma Blake, New Jersey State Librarian. "The new lobby is very welcoming, spacious and functional, making room for more materials and computers."
Her colleague, Tina Keresztury, Associate State Librarian, said, "Newark, like most urban libraries in New Jersey, had great need for these renovations in its historic building. This Construction Bond Program aided Newark and 67 other communities in the state in upgrading their library buildings and creating more space for the programs and services that today’s library customers want and need."
The Princeton firm of Johnson Jones Architects Planners, Inc., which was the architect for many of the branch libraries, provided the planning, design and oversight of the renovation work that returned the lobby to its turn-of-the-century grace and dignity. It is the Main Library’s first step in a three-phase plan to restore and expand its existing space.
With the completion of Phase I, the library plans to raise the capital to launch Phase II, the construction of a new addition, a modern glass cube with a view of downtown Newark. The extension will house the Charles F. Cummings New Jersey Information Center, the James Brown African American Room, the La Sala Hispanoamericana, world language collections, a dedicated space for young adults, a café and conference meeting room.
"At its opening in the early years of the 20th century, The Newark Public Library was on the cutting edge of library services. It was one of the first free lending libraries in the nation; one of the first to reach out to embrace an immigrant population, one of the first to stock foreign language material and one of the first with a special children’s room," Grey said. "This new construction and renovation of the main building will bring it back to that innovative edge."
©2006 The Newark Public Library