New Jersey’s Galloway Township Library (GTL) is a large brick building in the municipal complex. Playing fields, the police station, forsythias and holly bushes fringe the library and two wrought iron mesh benches donated by the local women’s club flank the entrance.
Though they’ve had a library here since 1973, the current 16,500 square foot structure was financed by a bond with some help from a state grant and opened in 1995.
GTL is one of eleven locations (there’s a community reading center in a high school) of the Atlantic County Library System (ACLS) which has a bookmobile too. The county also has four independent libraries – Atlantic City’s being the biggest.
Double sets of sliding doors kept the fierce wind out when I visited on a blustery, wet day in April, and an atrium over the foyer let in some welcome natural light to nourish the potted Norfolk Island palm. The vestibule’s a pleasant space with a geometric design on the tile floor, lots of brochures, bubblers, a promotional easel and appealing triangular gold fixtures above the community bulletin board.
A doorway leads to the 90 seat meeting room which has a kitchen, projection booth, two storage closets and walls graced with winning paintings from a recent contest that you can purchase. Altogether the System has seven meeting venues available to the public when not needed by the facility.
Just inside, a case of rustic bird houses, many with roofs made of bent license plates, squats next to a rack of books in series. Nearby, displays of large print, new fiction and one week titles beckon to browsers. A marble podium holds an open tome. Once Upon A Time…, sculpted by John Gowdy, was given by the children of the burg and others.
It’s a well used site, with busy decor that constantly catches your eye. An Earth Day display here, a decorate your own egg table there, and Easter touches all around. Bouquets, baskets and plants celebrate the onset of spring and the main desk is a riot of color with construction paper ovals hanging from the ceiling and standing out against black backgrounds that cover the glassed in staff section.
At the Circulation Desk, Library Assistant, Patty Maddox, who’s worked here a year and a half, told me it’s a very friendly place – they specialize in chitchat which hones their reader’s advisory skills and gives them lots of recommendations to pass on.
The library strives to be a part of the community – the Rutgers Master Gardener Plant Sale is held here, and they offer free wifi, at least eleven public internet computers plus the juvenile game computer. Visitors can also use and print from the internet. Several technology classes for older folks were advertised like Computers for Seniors and Introduction to MS PowerPoint and there’s a tech support group as well.
Children’s is quite sizeable with its own bathroom. With plenty of sturdy wood tables it can accommodate a good crowd and a huge elephant joins the abundance of plush toys atop the stacks.
ACLS produces numerous engaging leaflets such as 2014 Winning Children’s Books. The calendar has crafts and story times for a variety of ages, in Spanish and English (Miss New Jersey was the featured reader at one of them) and there’s a Lego club and both children’s and YA poetry slams.
In an alcove, a faux fireplace cleverly created from wrapped discards holds grade appropriate booklists. Next to it, the two seater little red reading house complete with a bell above the entry gives youngsters a private place to read and on the other side, the literacy shelf has stuffed animals, games, a story hour kit and books for the younger set. This early learning nook is embellished with colorful paw prints – it’s amazing what the employees manage to do with just paper and ink.
Beyond a low shelf, a cool curved window allows views of the neighboring meadows and woods. Carpeted built in benches surrounding two sides of the space provide seating for caretakers during storytimes and there’s a comfortable looking oversize armchair so little ones can sit on laps while listening to a tale.
A collapsible purple fabric can is a simple way to stash playthings and baubles while board books are stored in an alphabet turnstile with cubbyholes.
Formica tables ringed in red, yellow, green and blue with matching stools stand up to the frolics of boisterous tots and bright plastic bins hold picture books near a shelf of easy readers. By the book/CD kits and a mounted rack of suggested materials and music CDs, the curved children’s desk is garnished with bunnies and owls.
Branch Manager, Pat Morrow, who was retiring in two weeks, told me there’s a dedicated mil for the library – always a great way to ensure adequate funding. Galloway is the largest municipality by area in the state – one side of it reaches to the ocean. Home to more than 37,000 people it’s a mixed community with a number of retirees. ACLS members can attend book, chess and knitting clubs, English conversation groups, or lectures on Weird NJ (covering landmarks and state secrets) and the region’s history.
A Mother’s Day tea party was coming up, and the South Jersey Astronomy Club was bringing telescopes to one of the branches for an evening of stargazing on the lawn called Public Skywatch. Over fifty Book Club in a Bag selections can be borrowed and there are even some for teens.
Instead of signs directing users, GTL uses multihued flags to point out Periodicals, the Information Desk etc. Beneath high skylights, black wire shelves on wheels hold TV series on DVD and popular music. Foreign films are housed on a separate rack and they have three computers in a quiet study room.
A glass fronted cabinet holds knitted goods you can buy from a resident and by the permanent book sale, free standing cage like forms decked with garlands of flowers exhibit canvasses from the Galloway Cultural Arts Center.
GTL has a New Jersey collection and there’s a great compilation of historical resources including digitized wills, immigration records and Civil War discharge papers accessible from the ACLS website. The home page lists recently added DVDs and texts and patrons can watch IndieFlix streaming films and download ebooks and eaudiobooks, or magazines and music via Zinio and Freegal.
Since it was near Earth Day, there was a recycled crafts program for adolescents, and Teen Scene and Teen Meet provide opportunities for like minded minors to get together. Youths have their own movie night, a Cinco de Mayo party and the intriguingly named Marshmallow Madness.
The spacious teen area has high tables with bar stools along with these upholstered blue and chrome chairs and lots of graphic novels to choose from.
With a vast collection of over 700,000 items (625 different magazines – it boggles the imagination!), ACLS presents users with a plethora of resources. It’s got loads of databases – Acceda Noticias gives full text access to 20 Spanish newspapers while Global Road Warrior covers geography and culture for the world’s countries. Points of View helps students understand all facets of an issue and the Oxford African American Studies Center consolidates knowledge on the subject.
The system has a blog and twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Pinterest accounts (love the idea of painting old bricks to look like books and using them as garden ornaments). The facebook page has DIY tips like how to fashion an invisible bookshelf and promotes sessions such as Book Hedgehog Craft for Teens & Adults.
Materials can be borrowed or returned to any location and they have a foundation.
Back at GTL, a variety of prints adorn the walls by the Information Desk and a cubicle houses Outspoken Library, a computer with braille and audio for those with limited sight.
I’m really impressed with the ingenuity of the people at Galloway and ACLS – they’ve devised some unique adventures for their customers and really know how to spruce up the place using inexpensive supplies.