On Monday, April 29, 2019, the Jersey City Free Public Library held a ribbon cutting to celebrate the Grand Reopening of a critical facility in the Main Library: the Reference Department.
As the first major project of the third and final phase of the Main Library’s ongoing renovations, the Reference Department underwent a complete upgrade. The intricate plasterwork and ceiling details were carefully restored and repainted in beautiful blues, yellows and earthy reds. The department was completely refurnished with new shelving, new light fixtures were installed, and an electrical upgrade brings power supply directly to the restored original oak reading tables.
The reopening of the department ends a period of closure that began in September 2016. Work on the Reference Department was delayed in 2018 when asbestos was unexpectedly found in the floor of the room; after the additional asbestos abatement work was completed, the restoration of the interiors moved forward.
“The ongoing renovations of the Main Library will ensure that this marvelous cultural and educational asset will continue to play a vital role in our community for another century to come,” said Library Director Priscilla Gardner. “We thank our patrons for their patience during construction and we invite everyone to come see and enjoy the beautifully restored Reference Department.”
The ribbon cutting ceremony was emceed by Reference Department Manager John Butler, with Library Director on hand to address the supporters in attendance, as well as Chief Librarian Hussein Odeh. Also addressing the attendees were Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey, Library Trustee Sonia Araujo, former Library Board President Sondra Buesing-Riley, former Library Trustee Dr. Vijaya Desai, and library patron Annie Kessler.
Phase III of the renovations at the Main Library will also include restoration of the roof penthouse structures, ornamental copper cresting, and shingles, as well as replacement of the roofing systems and storm drainage. The fourth floor clerestory windows will be brought back into use. Biblioteca Criolla and the Federal Documents Department remain closed during the roof restoration work; bilingual library services are available in the New Jersey Room on the third floor.
“We recognize that Library closures can be inconvenient to our patrons, so we have planned the renovation in phases in order to maximize the amount of time that we can keep the building open during construction,” said Library Director Priscilla Gardner. “Temporary closures of individual departments allow us to minimize the overall disruption to our patrons.”
Phase I of the renovations, which was completed in 2016, included: the restoration of the exquisite architectural details in the Lending Department; a new elevator; barrier-free access to the Main Library entrance and renovated restrooms; and a new basement sprinkler system. Phase II, completed this year, called for a complete overhaul of all street-facing windows, replacing the existing aluminum with historically-correct, energy-efficient wood. The renovation of the Main Library is a large-scale, top to bottom restoration of a cherished historic building. The Library is grateful to the ongoing support of Mayor Steven Fulop for this critical undertaking.