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Posted March 30, 2005

A Visit One Year After the
New Library Dedication

[Ribbon Cutting Ceremony]
[Remarks by Mayor William J. Torre][Remarks by Library Director Michele Reutty]
[Moving into the new Library]
Preview Tour: [Library & Senior Center][Library Big Room][Basement]
Previous Ceremonies: [Ground Breaking][Cornerstone Ceremony][Cornerstone Program]
[Information leading up to new Library]
[Gov. Whitman Signs NJ State Library Bill at HH Library]

Story by Justin Watrel

"Have you visited our new library lately?" is a question many people in Hasbrouck Heights are asking each other.

Located on the second floor of our brand new Municipal Building at 320 Boulevard, our new library is now into the 21st Century.

All new computers, furniture and new lighting and book fixtures have given the library a cool contemporary feel and replaced our old library, which was cramped, with not much room for programming and was not handicap accessible.

The new library was the brainchild of a group of very dedicated Hasbrouck Heights citizens over the past five years, who felt that the town deserved more.

When talking with former Assemblywoman Rose Heck, she commented that before she left office the one thing she wanted to see was the building of a new library.

Mrs. Heck, a charter member of the Friends of the Library and one of its biggest boosters, has been a fan of libraries since she was a little girl. Over the years it had been suggested that the town buy adjoining land to the old library and add on to it. To make the old library handicap accessible would have been cost prohibitive.

When she moved to her new position as Assemblywoman, Mrs. Heck set out to seek funding for improvements. When a survey was done to see what the needs for local libraries were, she and others working on it found that the local libraries were grossly under funded.

So under the Whitman administration, Mrs. Heck introduced the "Heck Bill" to provide funding not just for Hasbrouck Heights, but for towns all over the state. The original 15 million dollar a year grant was changed to a 45 million dollar a year grant for a period of three years that benefited libraries all over the state.

Hasbrouck Heights received $700,000 in which to start the building of our library.

Former Mayor William Torre was fully committed to a new library and the council pledged their support. Even before the fire in the old Municipal building back in 1999, the new administration thought it was time to investigate a new building that would house the library and a new Senior Center.

The fire actually gave the town a new reason to start from scratch. When asked why the new library location was picked, the former mayor replied "We simply folded a map of Hasbrouck Heights and put it in the middle of town and on the edge of the downtown business district".

Using the architectural firm of Arcare & Iovino of Little Ferry, the feeling was to give the new building a ‘colonial look’ based on the town’s colonial heritage.

The design of the new building would be different from the old building too. It would be on one floor to make it more efficient and give it a cleaner look. "The architects were very hands on" the former Mayor noted "and were a great influence on the contemporary look in the design inside the building".

Much of this was based on a 1996 study that the town developed that found that before the fire most people found the library too small and materials were bursting at the seam.

At the time, Hasbrouck Heights was considered a ‘destination library’ and was being used by patrons from other towns.

A study in the Record Newspaper had noted that Hasbrouck Heights was one of the busiest libraries in Bergen County, considering the population size of the town.

Former Mayor Torre’s family added to the library by donating money for the Jean Torre Children’s Room. "My mother put the needs of children before herself and our family donated the money because our parents loved children so much and wanted to give more back."

Our library staff has been the major contribution that has made our library what it is today, with a staff that dedicates themselves to going the extra mile.

"We had a wonderful collaboration effort of the whole community" said Michele Reutty, the director of the library. "With the support of the town council and the Board of Trustees, we met with many focus groups on what the needs of the new library should be.

Of the five to six focus groups we dealt with, most people stressed more space. We wanted to paint the big picture and then fill in the canvas."

Peter Gallo, our current President of the Board of Trustees said "we wanted to put the library back on track and make it more technology driven and bring it into the 21st Century." Assisting Ms. Reutty at the library, Mimi Hui (who was 2004 New York Times "Librarian of the Year") added "a library is more than just computers and books, it’s a connection of people to people and the support that the community gives it."

The current President of the Friends of the Library, Susanne Kepsel said that "the library should serve as the cultural center of the community, offering diverse programming for adults, teenagers and children alike.

The sky’s the limit on programming." Mrs. Kepsel wanted to add it was donations from people like former Mayor William Torre’s family for the Children’s Room and former Mayor Bill Imken’s wife, Marcia for the History Room that will further advance the use of the library.

The Friends also have added their support as being a major fundraising arm of the library, supporting the library through various programs.

The ever successful "High Tea" at Neiman Marcus has proven successful as well as the recent "Wine & Delights" at the Ivy Inn that have helped raise money for the library. Mrs. Kepsel wanted to remind Hasbrouck Heights residents that the annual "Book & Bake Sale" would be going on from April 17-24th. The money raised will continue to fund programming at the library.

When asked how they see the future of the library, former Mayor Torre said he was glad that he was involved with the library’s development and the community involvement to get the library to where it is today.

Both he and Mr. Gallo agreed that "the library should be receptive to community needs and should listen to the needs and wants of its patrons." Former Mayor Torre went further in saying he would like to see the library become self-sufficient and to create an endowment to support it.

The library staff is enthusiastic about building on the programming that is already in place. "Now that we have the room that we didn’t have before" says Ms. Hui "we want to be the type of one stop shopping for the community."

Some future programming that everyone wants to see is more senior programming in conjunction with the Senior Center downstairs, an "Oral History of Hasbrouck Heights", where long time residents can share their stories of the town, a book club to further community get-togethers and theater productions of local artists.

Other ideas are events such as cooking classes, International Food events, computer training on things like the internet and more programming for teenagers. Ms. Hui wants to continue to build on her very successful "Young Adults" program that has attracted teenagers from around town.

With 28 members, its book discussion is one of the largest in Bergen County. "Talk it up" is another program that serves as an ice breaker and is very teen friendly adds Ms. Hui. Mrs. Heck wanted to see the creation of a "Children’s Garden", a place for young children to sit and read in a comfortable atmosphere that was located near the library.

In sharing their final thoughts of our new library, Ms. Hui and Ms. Reutty said "We want to be the town’s worst kept secret. We want people to come to the library once to see what we have and what we can do for them. We feel we have something for everyone and are trying to help everyone the best way we know how.

We love to find things that other libraries can’t" (writer’s note: the librarians found an Easter recipe from a book that Hasbrouck Heights didn’t have and had it faxed over from the Livingston Library. This shows the length of dedication this staff has to our library and I’m sure there are others). Mr. Gallo also pointed out that the Board of Trustees is receptive to any new ideas and if the people of Hasbrouck Heights have any suggestions, that the board will consider them.

For people in town who have said that the new library was too expensive or was so big that it looked like the "Taj Mahal", our library staff and the boards that have supported them are eager for you to visit the new library downtown and see where your hard earned tax dollars are going.

We have a beautiful new library with a supportive and dedicated staff that is ready once again to serve the communities' needs.

Mrs. Heck summed it up nicely when she said "Libraries are magical places, where you can see things from A to Z that you never saw before. Libraries put a light on things happening in our community and we should support them as well." ###


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