Hundreds of thousands of dollars can buy much more than a collection of Dr. Seuss or Roald Dahl children's books.
Kidding aside, Mount Pleasant Public Library is the recipient of nearly $400,000 in state grants for renovations to its popular children's room and energy-efficient lighting, heating and air conditioning throughout the library in Pleasantville.
At a press conference on Sept. 12, state Sen. Peter Harckham and Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti announced they had secured a $250,000 State and Municipal Facilities Program grant and a $140,591 library construction grant from the state Department of Education. Also attending the event were Mount Pleasant Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi and Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer.
The grants will pay for converting the library’s HVAC system from oil to natural gas, replacing the room’s ceiling and installing LED lighting. Also planned is a reconfiguration of the children’s room -- pending community input. It may include a new wall separating the children's area from the Main Library.
Library Director John Fearon said the library is surveying the community to build consensus on how best to update the space.
"We're currently running a community-based process to evaluate children's services at the library," Fearon said. "We've been running an online survey and there has been a "dot board" (of ideas) in our Children's Room. In a couple of weeks, we will be wrapping it up with a public forum."
Based on what we hear, we will create a plan for our children's services and also renovate the Children's Room at the Main Library. Most likely the project will include making it more energy efficient with LED lighting and re-configuring the layout to better suit contemporary use. Also possibly a wall to help separate the room a little more from the Main Library.
“In a couple of weeks, we’re doing a public forum,” Fearon said. “Everybody’s welcome to come and talk about what it is we want for our children.”
Obtaining state grants for local libraries is a way to lower property taxes, according to Abinanti.
“Libraries are an education center, a research center and a community center,” Abinanti said. “It’s nice to be able to bring back some of the taxpayers’ money for such a good cause.”
Harckham said: “Our local community libraries are the epicenters of our community, gathering places where love of learning, in early life and later in life, (makes it) the one place without question where everybody is welcome regardless of ability or social status. . . .The library is where you can come and be part of the community, learn what you want to learn.”
During construction, library officials plan to temporarily relocate the children’s section to the community room in the basement. The board hopes to solicit bids for the project by next summer and complete work by 2021.
"The specs have not been developed yet so we don't have a budget or a scope of project," Fearon said. "However, we do anticipate that a combination of these funds plus a capital reserve that we have will be adequate to fund the renovations."