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Nov 30, 2017

Long-Awaited Ribbon Cutting for New Holmdel Library and Learning Center

By Joanne Colella

Cutting the ribbon for the new Holmdel Library and Learning Center are, left to right: Somerset Development President Ralph Zucker, Congressman Chris Smith’s Chief of Staff Jo Schloeder, Freeholder Serena DiMaso, Freeholder Director Lillian Burry, Mayor Greg Buontempo, Deputy Mayor Pat Impreveduto, and Township Committeemen Michael Nikolas, Eric Hinds, and Tom Critelli.

Hundreds of area residents, joined by an array of dignitaries and local officials, flocked to Bell Works on Crawfords Corner Road on the evening of Wednesday, November 1 to witness an event that has been many years in the making: the official ribbon cutting of the new Holmdel Public Library and Learning Center. The new library is located on the first floor of the iconic building and will become part of the thriving metroburb, surrounded by not only corporate tenants but, eventually, retail companies, restaurants, and a hotel. Ample parking is available in the expansive front lot, and library patrons can enter through the main entrance of the building, with the library just off the enormous atrium. A new sidewalk is currently under construction that will link the Bell Works community to Holmdel High School, allowing students to have access after class.

The new library will fill a beautifully designed 18,000-square-foot space, with floor-to-ceiling windows and doors to allow a flood of daylight – a vast improvement over the much smaller and woefully outdated library that has been located in the dreary basement of Holmdel Town Hall for decades. Although the ribbon-cutting was held at the beginning of November, the finishing touches were still being completed and library staffers were eagerly getting ready to fill the new facility with books, periodicals, videos, computers, furnishings, and other equipment in the weeks that followed, with an anticipated “real” opening later in the month.

Holmdel Township has a 30-year, rent-free lease with Bell Works for the space, with construction costs totaling $1.7 million. Bell Works owner and developer Somerset Development, headed by Ralph Zucker, donated $1 million earlier this year for the project, with additional funds coming from various fundraising initiatives. The Holmdel Library Foundation, a non-profit organization to support the creation of the library, donated $60,000 in September to go towards the book shelving for the new space. (Longtime residents may also remember the now-defunct Friends of the Holmdel Library group, another volunteer organization who hosted numerous grassroots events, activities, and fundraisers to support the Holmdel library and to push for a new and improved facility for a number of years.)

The facility will feature, among many other things, free Wi-Fi, plenty of computer work stations and charging ports, conference rooms, a young adult section and a children’s area, quiet rooms – even a display on the history of the former Bell Labs site and Holmdel Township. It remains a branch of the Monmouth County Library System, accessible to library cardholders, with passes also available to Bell Works tenants.

At the November 1 event, several speakers took the podium to give remarks on the history of the library, the evolution of the new location, and the tireless efforts of those who worked to make it happen. They included Monmouth County Freeholders Lillian Burry, Tom Arnone, and Serena DiMaso; Holmdel Mayor Greg Buontempo, Deputy Mayor Pat Impreveduto, and Township Committeemen Tom Critelli, Mike Nikolas, and Eric Hines; Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert McGarry; Somerset Development President Ralph Zucker; Monmouth County Library Director Judy Tolchin and Monmouth County Library Commission Chair Renee Schwartz; Holmdel Library Foundation board members; and mayors from other towns who all came to join the celebration.

Monmouth County Freeholder Director Lillian Burry, liaison to the Monmouth County Library System, spoke about the Holmdel Library’s humble beginnings and its history, starting in the 1950s, as the seventh of the county’s 13 library branches. “Today marks a new era in the history of the Holmdel Library,” she said. “This will be a treasure…to all who walk through these doors.”

Mayor Greg Buontempo introduced Somerset President Ralph Zucker, who went on to offer thanks to the Holmdel Township Committee, the Monmouth County Freeholders, the talented architect, library staff, employees of Somerset Development and Bell Works, and others. He also shared memories of his own childhood and appreciation for books, driving home the point with a humorous story of two goats who were munching on movie reels behind a theater. When one goat asked the other how it was, the second goat replied, “The film was okay, but the book was better.” After some chuckles from the crowd, Mr. Zucker noted, “The book is always better. A book allows you to imagine…for your imagination and your mind’s eye to run free.”

Mayor Buontempo was also presented with a flag, courtesy of Congressman Chris Smith, that had been flown over the U.S. Capitol in recognition of the new Holmdel Library, as well as a plaque from the Holmdel Library Foundation in appreciation of the township committee’s vision, determination, and leadership. Ann Marie Buontempo, president of the foundation, stated, “Tonight is a first glimpse into the future…something that’s been awaited for decades.” The mayor explained, “Libraries today are more than a repository of books. As technology and digital media continue to evolve, they must become educational centers to encourage collaboration and interaction for all ages.” The new facility, he added, will offer “a larger collection, more computers, ample seating, terrific meeting spaces, a young adult zone…and welcome daylight throughout.”

Following the ribbon cutting, the crowd had the opportunity to meander through the new library space, as well as take a tour of the entire Bell Works building. In the heart of a place that is famed for its long history of unparalleled knowledge, invention, and innovation by the brilliant minds of countless men and women – in a community that prides itself on its stellar school system and the academic achievements of its students – the Holmdel Library and Learning Center has finally found its new home. There is, perhaps, no better place for it to be.