Announcing the Renovation & Expansion of Lee Memorial Library

For 120 years, Lee Memorial Library has been a cornerstone of the Allendale community, and we’ve become much more than a traditional library. We welcome hundreds of children each week. We host events for all ages.  And we work hand-in-hand with our top-ranked school district to enhance students’ educational opportunities. 

Lee Memorial Library serves every segment of our community, and we continually look for ways to improve our services and our gathering and programming space.

The Borough of Allendale will soon be relocating its administrative offices from the building we share, creating a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the library to expand into the vacated first floor space. But we can’t do it without your help.

Ready to learn more about this exciting project? Read our Frequently Asked Questions below.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1.  Why does the library need more space?
    • In recent years, despite the fine work of our Administrator and our devoted staff, the library has been stretched to provide adequate services to our community. The population of Allendale has grown over 17 percent since 1978, when the current building was dedicated as the new library. The square footage of the building, on the other hand, has remained the same — and library funding has increased only marginally.  By comparison, the Allendale K-8 schools have expanded or significantly renovated its two buildings five times since then.
    • At the same time, the definition of library services – and what the community expects from its library – continues to expand.  We need additional meeting, gathering, and programming space. We need more spacing between the children’s and adult sections. And we need technological improvements and to enhance our programming and digital collections. While expanding our footprint, the library will maintain its robust physical collection and access to digital resources. The borough is vacating the building regardless, so we now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand into the soon to be vacated Borough offices.
  2.  My taxes already pay for the library. Will you need more money – and if so, why?
    • Only a small fraction of your tax dollars, 1.4 percent, goes to Lee Memorial Library, which is driven by the minimum rate that New Jersey requires all municipalities with libraries to provide. This amount has remained relatively flat in recent years. In fact, it is the same amount in 2021 as it was in 2005.  Lee Memorial Library continues to maintain a balanced operating budget. We have not asked Allendale residents for any additional tax support. What’s more, we have raised and saved capital dollars, and we’ve applied for state grants for this expansion. But it is not enough. We need your further support through donations to make this once in a lifetime opportunity happen.
    • As a side note, like police protection, road maintenance, recycling pickup and other services of local government, funding for our public library is appropriated by law from municipal property tax receipts. It is important to note that only 1.4 percent of the total annual tax levy for Allendale property owners is allocated to the library. By contrast, 65 percent of Allendale property taxes go to the K-12 schools, and 10 percent go to Bergen County. The library runs on less than 24 cents per resident, per day — while providing value to the community in excess of $2.3 million a year, according to the American Library Association Return on Investment Calculator.
  3. How much will this cost, and how much money do you need to raise?
    • We believe the expansion into the borough space will cost approximately 2 million dollars due to the infrastructure and technology needs of the 57-year-old building. We have saved capital assets and have applied for a New Jersey state grant for approximately half that amount.  To bring this to life, we need to raise at least a million dollars.
  4. How many people actually use the library?
    • Over 75% of Allendale residents over the age of 5 are library card holders – and have used their cards to borrow items within the last two years, including during the pandemic. Lee Memorial Library ranks in the top 10% of library cardholders as a percentage of population of the 77-member Bergen County Cooperative Library System.
  5. I don’t use the library. How does this help me?
    • We encourage you to stop by the library and see what you’re missing! Our collection of over 5 million items includes wireless hotspots for secure internet access for work, travel or school; passes providing free admission to 12 museums in the metropolitan area; databases such as Ancestry.com; one-to-one live tutoring with subject and grade experts from the Princeton Review; complimentary notary public service, and STEAM building products to develop technical, engineering, science and math proficiency. And our digital offerings are second to none: Allendale readers downloaded over 19,000 electronic books in 2020 alone! Our robust programming schedule, including lectures, hands-on projects, resume and career development workshops, and wellness and fitness offerings, among others, attracted nearly 12,000 community members last year.  The library offers something for everyone.
    • The library works hand in hand with our top-ranked school district in providing educational excellence to our residents.  Educational systems are always an important factor in the vibrancy and value of our communities.
  6. Are my taxes going to go up?
    • NO! This library expansion will have no impact on your taxes. Only a small fraction of your tax dollars goes to LML, which is the minimum rate that NJ legislates all municipalities must provide. This amount has not increased in recent years, in fact, it is the same amount as 2005.  LML continues to maintain a balanced operating budget and has not asked Allendale residents for any additional tax support. Additionally, we have raised and saved capital dollars and have applied for state grants for this expansion. But we need your support to make this happen.
  7. What will the renovation look like? Will it change the face of the building?
    • The side of the building that faces West Crescent Avenue will look the same externally as it does now and we will add a new entrance in the rear and a central portico. But inside the experience will be dramatically transformed.
  8. Why can’t you use the space the way it is now? What are the new community demands that renovated space will meet?
    • Most of the Lee Memorial Library building was designed 60 years ago, prior to the invention of smartphones, tablets, digital content, and other tools that have transformed how we access and use information. Interior spaces struggle to accommodate both quiet uses and active collaboration at the same time. Basic aspects of service such as the number of electrical outlets and adequate electricity to support lighting fixtures and HVAC systems are not commensurate with demand. Workspaces are outdated and insufficient.
    • The library lacks adequate space for current attendance levels and programs. Shelving dominates the space, with little room left for seating and other uses. Additional collaborative spaces and meeting rooms are needed to accommodate participation in our popular library programs.
    • The population of Allendale has increased by 17 percent since the library started occupying its current facility – and it is anticipated to grow by another 5 percent by 2040. But our square footage has remained the same. Comprehensive analysis of site visit data, interior traffic patterns, and usage figures suggests that Lee Memorial Library has less than half the space it currently needs to serve the community.
    • With this expansion, the library footprint will increase by over 30% – from 7,740 square feet to 10,240 square feet. We are responding to the clear and continuous feedback from our residents asking for additional space and services. We surveyed the entire community, held focus group sessions, and watched the evolution of the Bergen County Library System to understand current and future needs.
  9. How will you stay within budget and ensure the money is well-spent?
    • LML has a dedicated board of trustees and a professional management staff that has continued to provide increasing services with no increase in municipal funding over the past decade. We have an established track record of fiscal prudence and will continue to manage this effort with the same diligence.
  10. Who is on the renovation/capital campaign committee?
    • The entire board of trustees and our management team are intimately involved in this effort.  Additionally, the Friends of the Library group continues to fundraise, with a special team for this effort led by Allendale resident Cathy Squasoni.
  11. How much money will come from the town of Allendale?
    • Town government is moving to a new building, allowing LML to expand.  There is presently no additional funding budgeted from the municipality, although we remain hopeful that anticipated surpluses to the municipal budget in 2022 may change this.
  12. Where will the money for this project be coming from?
    • Capital savings, potentially a state grant, and your generous support.
  13. Will operating costs at the library increase when you expand?
    • The renovation has been designed to be the most efficient it can be, reducing the demand on heating, cooling, and lighting. In fact, we anticipate that total energy consumption may be reduced due to the greater efficiencies in the new HVAC system, among other areas. The municipal government will continue to provide the routine services such as landscaping and custodial maintenance, as it does currently for all Borough-owned buildings, such as the police station and DPW offices, as well as the library.
  14. Is the building structurally sound with an appropriate life span to embark on these plans?
    • Yes.  We engaged an architect to review and certify that the building is structurally sound.  We’ve done our due diligence.
  15. Will the library stay open during construction?
    • We will make every effort to maintain library access with minimal disruption, but construction plans at this point are preliminary.
  16. When will construction start?  How long will it take?
    • Our physical expansion will not begin until the municipality moves to its new location.  They currently forecast a move in 2022, so we would anticipate renovating the vacated space in 2023. We believe the renovation process could last approximately 6 to 12 months, but renovation plans are still very preliminary.
  17. How can I find out what the library offers?
    • Subscribe to our two weekly newsletters, follow our Facebook page, give our website a look, and stop by to meet our team. We continually look for ways to improve our communications.
  18. Are we getting more books?
    • This expansion is focused more on meeting and programming space, technology improvements, and infrastructure requirements.  But be assured that we will continue to maintain and curate our robust book collection, which currently exceeds 50,000 volumes on site, with access to over 5 million items through our co-operative partners.

LEE MEMORIAL LIBRARY BOARD OF TRUSTEES

Catherine Shaw – President

Jackie McSwiggan – Vice President

Jill Webb – Treasurer

Jim Wright – Secretary

Sheila Granowitz

Tom Zambrotta

Sarah Dunlavy

Honorable Ari Bernstein – Mayor

Matt O’Toole – Mayor’s Representative

Dr. Michael Barcadepone – Superintendent of Schools

Melissa Duncan – Superintendent’s Representative