In Moorestown, a tech-packed new library set to open

Joe Galbraith, Moorestown library director, shows off the main room of the new facility. "We've planned this out to the nth degree," he said of the move.
Joe Galbraith, Moorestown library director, shows off the main room of the new facility. "We've planned this out to the nth degree," he said of the move. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 09, 2014

A painter on a ladder was sanding a wall, an electrician was tugging wires from a floorplate, pages were stacking DVDs into newly installed shelving, and the man in a Teamsters T-shirt wanted to know where to deliver his crate just as a load of plastic-wrapped biographies rolled through the front door of the new Moorestown Library.

"Look," joked library director Joe Galbraith. "There goes Che Guevara."

He meant the book, not the late revolutionary, but his good humor was understandable.

After years of planning and 15 months of construction, the township in about two weeks will open the doors of its grand new library: an airy, sunlit, state-of-the-art facility still centered on books but built for the 21st century.

"We've planned this out to the nth degree," Galbraith said, after pointing the Teamster and his crate to the children's section.

Turning to his temporary desk - a metal toolbox in the main reading room - he pressed a finger to one of the many architectural drawings guiding the relocation process.

The black lines marked "3A" and "3B," he explained, corresponded to those pieces of numbered tape on the floor over there, where the tan metal stacks from the former library will relocate.

But these will be the old stacks with a new twist, said Galbraith, 59, who could scarcely conceal his delight at the surprises in store.

"At the end of each row" he said, "will be a touch screen that lets you access the catalog anywhere in the building.

WiFi access points will "flood the whole building," and even the giant windows are high tech. They not only block 95 percent of ultraviolet rays - "an enemy of books and paper," he said - but help block winter cold and summer heat.

Book Look

What's more, the air circulating through the building will be filtered and exposed to UV rays that kill bacteria and mold "so you don't get that dank smell," for which the town's former library was famous.

The library has also created a free iPhone app that allows remote access to its website, catalog, and periodicals list.

"You can also review your account, renew things, and download e-books and digital audiobooks," explained Joanne Parra, the library's senior reference librarian, who pulled out her iPhone to give a demonstration.

Among its niftier features is Book Look, which allows users to scan the bar code on a book they are contemplating buying, to see if it's in the Moorestown Library.

Called Moorestown Library Mobile, the app "is a library in the palm of your hand," said Parra.

Galbraith nodded approvingly. "A lot of people think librarians are against information technology because it will replace libraries - or themselves," he said. "Nothing could be farther from the truth."

Clad in dark brick and two stories tall, the new, 26,000-square-foot library at 111 W. Second St. abuts the new, 20,000-square-foot Town Hall, which opened without fanfare May 19. The latter replaces the former municipal building on the site, which was severely damaged in a 2007 fire.

Built simultaneously at a cost of about $15 million, the library and town hall will be formally dedicated once the library's collection of 100,000 books, 6,000 DVDs, 1,000 music CDs, 1,200 book CDs, and other items is transferred from its former home.

It is not a long journey. The massive, mold- and leak-plagued concrete building that served as Moorestown's library since 1975 sits just 200 feet away, across a newly paved and landscaped parking lot.

Striking contrast

Designed long before the Internet, WiFi, smartphones, and DVDs were dreamed of, the building's 18-inch-thick walls and floors made adaptation to new technologies nearly impossible.

The contrast between the two libraries is striking. While the older building, designed by the late Malcolm Wells of Cherry Hill, has low ceilings, few windows, and fluorescent lights, the new building - designed by architect Daniel Nichols of the Ragan Design Group in Medford - features 22-foot-high ceilings and large, sculpted downlights of brushed steel and glass.

(The 72,000-square-foot Cherry Hill Library, opened in 2004, is nearly three times larger than Moorestown's, with ceilings nearly 30 feet high.)

Moorestown's will also have a coffee bar, with tables and outside umbrellas, although a vendor has not yet been selected.

The collection's transfer, expected to last two more weeks, began Monday, when the older building was closed to patrons, except for the book drop. Contract crews arrived with plywood book racks on wheels for carting.

A few days later, pages Demaris Katty and Susan Lewis were wiping down some of the vacated stacks in preparation for their transport to the new building.

"Look what I found," said Katty, a 14-year employee, as she pulled a paper airplane from a high shelf. "From a kid, no doubt, playing in the stacks."

Wrapped in plastic sheeting to protect against rain, the titles peeking from the carts testified to the range of knowledge they contained. The Left-handed Syndrome, read one. Here were biographies of Garibaldi, Gershwin, and Gandhi, a self-help book, Undoing Perpetual Stress, and A Brief History of Brazil.

"It's pretty amazing, the ideas that live in this building," said Lewis.

'A great kid'

Although the children's section was vacant of books, framed covers of Charlotte's Web and other children's classics remained on the walls, and a large velour Curious George doll reclined in a cardboard box, awaiting the trip to his new home across the way.

Like George, the township's young readers are in for a treat.

A soundproof room for teens has a large-screen TV and video games, and the storytime room for small children will include a "crooked house" in one corner. On a wall is a large, hand-painted mural of a young boy with a faraway gaze, sitting under a tree.

He is Sean Michael Fischel, a 7-year-old Moorestown boy - and an avid patron of the library - who died this year of an autoimmune disorder. His family commissioned the mural, which artist Michele Jagodzinski was finishing last week.

"He was a great kid," she said, as she daubed at the pale rabbit and brilliant flowers at Sean's feet.

The main children's section features five floor-to-ceiling tree trunks that rise to a canopy of painted leaves reminiscent of author-artist Maurice Sendak. The green, specially made computer desks are made to look like picnic tables.

Like everything else, "they weren't cheap," Galbraith said with a shrug, "but we've tried to give people what they want.

"Change is the only thing that stays the same," he added. "We've moved with the times."

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