Library Journal’s Design Institute

Mary Chute, NJ State Librarian

In anticipation of New Jersey’s Library Construction Bond Act guidelines coming out in the spring of 2019, Library Journal in partnership with Cherry Hill Public Library, the NJ State Library Association and the NJ State Library, hosted an all-day library building and design event on Friday, Sep. 28.

Architects, vendors and over 100 librarians came together to discuss topics ranging from building a new library to renovating or retrofitting existing spaces, both large and small, to better serve the needs of the community.

In her welcoming remarks, Mary Chute, NJ State Librarian, discussed the progress of getting the NJ Library Construction Bond Act guidelines approved and what librarians should consider when applying for the funds. Rebecca Miller, editorial director of Library Journal, advised librarians to be flexible and ready when the funds become available. “Today is designed around collaboration,” she said, “you should find the breakout sessions on challenges and the speed sessions with the architects, where you may discuss problems at your library, valuable.”

Susan Bass Levin

The keynote address was given by Susan Bass Levin, former mayor of Cherry Hill, who recounted how she spearheaded the plans for a new Cherry Hill Library and used the NJ Library Construction Bond Act of 1999 to build it. “Residents don’t want their money wasted, they want it well spent,” she said. “Think about how you build support in your town for the library – tell your story. Books are stories about life; the library is the key to those stories.”

The rest of the day brought together the librarians with expert panels of architects discussing what to do “Before You Begin,” “Realife Library Design Challenges,” “Interacting with Architects,” and “Changing Spaces.” Panelists agreed that involving the community was essential in planning. Dennis Kowal, principal, Dennis Kowal Architects, encouraged the librarians to “know your patrons’ needs. The library experience is in your control, to give customer satisfaction. Do a GAP analysis to determine what your needs and wants are, and what you don’t have.”

All in attendance, whether in the dreaming and planning stages or further along the design road, found ideas, information, and inspiration to get them ready for spring 2019.