Cranberry’s path to creating a separate public library took years.
The new Cranbury Public Library building opened to residents and visitors after a grand opening on November 19.
“We want it to be an urban living room. We want everyone to come in and use it,” said Cranbury Public Library Director Marilyn Mullen, noting that people who need a place to be quiet can use their quiet rooms.
Mullen said teenagers, high school students and adults can use the library’s learning packages.
“We hope that they will take ownership of this area,” she said, adding that it is an area where people can read newspapers and/or magazines, as well as hold private book reading and conversation groups.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening were filled with festivities throughout the day, marking the completion of a comprehensive effort that included creation of the Cranberry Public Library Foundation in 2009, community contributions, private fundraising, public funding and township land acquisition.
“The new library will be very special for the city,” said state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14), adding that she predicts that children and adults will be in the library all the time. “STo see how many people are here today and how many people appreciate the library is very important and says a lot about this city and its values.”
The one-story — about 11,600 square feet — new library building was constructed on a 14-acre parcel of land at 30 Park Place West.
The building provides the space needed for the library’s book collection, expanding services, new programs and amenities that the library did not have room for when they were located at Cranberry School.
Inside the new building are conference rooms, a creative space, the Swanagan Gallery, a space for teenagers with interactive games, a large community meeting space for 80 people, a computer area and a relaxation area where people can read books, newspapers or magazines.
Mullen envisions that the library will traditionally be used not only for check-out, but also for programs and after-hours community group meetings.
“Keys can be given to community groups, they have to sign up,” Mullen said, adding that they want the entire community to use the space.
There are also quiet rooms, rows of books, a room for Cranbury Historical Preservation Society archives and materials, study rooms and a children’s area.
“All these years of thinking about it, dreaming about it as a priority to finally make it happen, I’m just so grateful that we’ve gotten to this point,” said Kirsty Venanzi, president of the Cranberry Public Library Board of Trustees. “The new library has been supported by many in the community.”
She added that the construction of the new library was a long process.
“When you do a feasibility study, [we ask] “Can we finance it? Okay, we don’t have the funds right now, we have to go and raise money for this. Little by little,” she said.
Just before entering the children’s area, part of the hallway displays murals by Cranberry artist Lisa Walsh, and on the other side of the hallway is a quote, “I learn thousands and thousands of things” as people enter the children’s area.
“She donated her time to what she wanted to do for the library. When they were still working here, she would come in October and paint every day,” Mullen said. “She did a wonderful job getting us to choose a quote.”
The room has a reading area surrounded by the library’s children’s book collection.
Construction of the library was made possible with more than $2.3 million raised in private donations and fundraising through the Cranberry Public Library Foundation from 800 households and businesses,” Mullen said. “The Board of Trustees has been setting aside funds for many years and $2.39 million in state funds from the New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act (LCBA).
Since the library left its shared space at Cranberry School in 2020, the work of the library the temporary pocket library at Odd Fellows Hall at 30 N. Main St. has ended. A second temporary location that was not open to the public was a back office in the office park on South Main Street.
The library’s Board of Trustees welcomed the fall 2020 news that they had received more than $2.3 million in public funding from New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act (LCBA).
This funding allowed the Board of Trustees to move forward with plans for a new library and cover the full cost of the library’s construction.
At the time, the Cranberry Public Library project was one of 38 selected from 139 applications in the first round of funding from the LCBA and the first project to move forward.
The LCBA was approved by New Jersey voters in a statewide referendum in 2017. $125 million available through the LCBA provides funding for local library construction and renovation projects.
LCBA co-sponsors in the state Senate and Assembly included Greenstein and Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-14).
“I knew years ago that this would be a top priority for a town like Cranberry because it’s something that the people here value. Over the years, whenever I had an opportunity to try to get funding, I always thought about Cranberry,” Greenstein said.
Greenstein added that she made lists of her priorities and always tried to “get the library money.”
The library’s board of trustees contracted with JH Williams Enterprises Inc. to build the project. in 2021. Completion of construction was delayed over the summer due to supply chain issues, but it continued until the grand opening in November.
“The grand opening was the culmination of many years of hard work and perseverance. It was extra special to hear the bells from the City Hall dome and to be a part of the ribbon cutting ceremony,” said Mayor Barbara Rogers.
She noted that the new separate library really lives up to the hype.
“When you enter the building, the view of the open space is impressive. It fits in beautifully with the historic and agricultural character of Cranberry,” Rogers said. “The whole space is welcoming for all ages. It’s more than just a building, it’s a space where people can go, learn, share ideas and create community.”