NORTHVALE — A steady rain did not stop residents from lining up out the door of the borough’s new public library on Tuesday to celebrate its reopening and sign up for library cards.
The library closed in 2011 after residents rejected a tax increase that would have raised $250,000 to fund it. In November, however, residents voted to restore the library at an annual cost of around $300,000, to be funded with the proceeds of a 5.4 percent municipal tax increase.
“When the library was gone, the town felt the loss,” said Ellen O’Keefe, the library’s director. “There was a groundswell of support to integrate back into BCCLS.”
The Bergen County Cooperative Library System, or BCCLS, is composed of 77 libraries across Bergen, Hudson, Essex and Passaic counties. Membership in one library gives an individual access to all 77 locations in the system. After the library closed in 2011, volunteers opened a small library that had limited operating hours and was not part of the BCCLS system.
“Now that it’s a municipal library, it can’t be voted out like last time,” said O’Keefe, who was appointed director in February.
Northvale residents voted 618-535 in November to approve the new library. After months of planning, re-labeling of books and decorating, it officially opened to the public on Tuesday.
“It’s great to see a crowd here,” said Mayor Ed Piehler. “It makes me happy to see so many smiling faces.”
Residents toured the adult nonfiction room, which also contains an extensive DVD collection and four public access computers.
The walls of the children’s room are adorned with superhero decorations in keeping with the theme of the summer reading program: “Every hero has a story.” The program begins on June 25.
“It was a lot of work, but we’re so excited to connect with the public again,” said Marissa Hall, a youth services librarian who showed up to the opening in a Wonder Woman outfit.
Thanks to Hall, the children’s room also features posters of fictional cities and planets, such as Hogsmeade from “Harry Potter” and Gallifrey from “Doctor Who.”
A room off the children’s section displays the rest of the library’s materials — a section of young adult fiction books and graphic novels, an adult fiction section, biographies and a “librarian’s choice” section. According to O’Keefe, the library has more than 13,500 items.
“What you guys did here was just absolutely incredible,” said Terrie McColl, president of the New Jersey Library Association.
McColl presented the Library Champion Award to the residents of Northvale in recognition of the work they put into making this new library a reality. Residents campaigned for a municipal library for several months and collected more than 1,700 signatures on a petition supporting the ballot question.
“It’s hard to believe this didn’t exist until now,” said Marie Coughlin, the BCCLS executive director.
“Look at these kids,” she said, as children sat at a table reading stories to one another and picking out books for Hall to read to them. “We didn’t have this space for them.”
By late afternoon, more than 135 residents had registered for a library card.
“I’m so happy I want to jump up and down,” said BCCLS President Len LoPinto. “This is such an incredible accomplishment.”
*This story was originally published in The Record.