By Roberto Ferragina
The Long Branch Free Public Library (LBFPL) held its annual ‘Library Champions Dinner’ last night at McLoone’s Pier House in Pier Village. This year’s recipients were the state and local advocates of the New Jersey Construction Bond Act: Governor Phil Murphy, Congressman Frank Pallone, Long Branch Mayor John Pallone, Long Branch City Council Members, NJLA Director (retired) Pat Tumultry, and NJLA Past Chair Public Policy Committeeperson Jeanne Marie Ryan. The Library Construction Bond Act award is momentous for the library system as $3.1 million dollars has been granted along with a match from the City. This means the LBFPL system will receive and invest a total of $6.2 million dollars to upgrade the main branch, located on Broadway.
Library Director Tonya Garcia opened the event with a few comments welcoming the approximate one hundred and thirty guests which included the Library Board of Trustees and many supporters. The Director discussed the impact of the grant and stated that, “This project will renovate and restore the approximate 23,000 square foot Carnegie Library that will include a business and career center, local history room, additional reading spaces, and a new teen area.” She went on to add that, “The Main Library will be a state-of-the-art building that reflects our nationally recognized library services.” The Main Library is one of only seventeen Carnegie buildings in New Jersey that are still in use as a library, and as it was then, today it remains a vital part in the life of the city.
The Construction Bond Act was approved through a referendum vote by the residents of New Jersey. On May 1st the Main Branch of the LBFPL will temporarily close while the renovation is underway. Library Director Tonya Garcia explained, “while the renovation takes place many library services will temporarily relocate to the New Health and Technology Center on Third Avenue here in the City of Long Branch. In addition, the Elberon location will have expanded hours and the library system will launch an extensive Community Outreach initiative. The goal is to have this process be as accommodating as we can for our community members and groups that utilize the library system.”
The LBFPL Board of Trustees President, Roberto Ferragina, also spoke to the attendees, reiterating the importance of the grant and also highlighted the Long Branch Library’s distinction in being selected as one of fifteen finalists for the 2023 National Medal for Museum and Library Services. This is the highest honor given to museums and libraries nationally that demonstrate significant impact in their communities. Ferragina stated, “The Library Board of Trustees is extremely happy with this nomination and know that without the hard work, dedication, and passion of the Library Director and the Library Staff this distinction would not have come through fruition. We are also very lucky to have volunteer groups such as the Long Branch Friends Of The Library as well as advocates such as Congressman Pallone, Senator Gopal, Mayor Pallone, and the Long Branch Council.”
The event included a slideshow of photographs comparing the library building as it looks today to schematic renderings of what it will look like after the renovation is complete. In addition, Congressman Pallone, who was unable to attend the event, provided a video that was played for the attendees. He stressed the importance of the Public Library for the community at-large, thanked the Director and staff for their tireless commitment to the library system and congratulated them for the Construction Bond Act. The event included a plated dinner with a DJ and plenty of dancing.