Expanded Parkland library welcomes back the community
By ANNA GILGOFF
Special to The Press
The first thing Patricia Risley and her children, Molly and Patrick Phares, did after returning from an Ocean City vacation was to stop at the newly renovated and expanded Parkland Community Library to stock up on books.
“I was kind of disappointed when they first closed,” Molly said. “But, I like that now it’s a lot bigger.”
The youngster said she couldn’t wait to tell her grandmother all about the many changes in her favorite library.
“It feels so welcoming,” she said.
Her mother couldn’t agree more.
“It’s so nice to be able to explore the library with the kids,” she said.
“The people who work here are really great.”
During the period of construction, the library moved its operations to the Roma Center, Cedar Crest Boulevard and Walbert Avenue, South Whitehall.
“We did a lot of different things, including make-and-takes for kids, teens and adults,” said Debbie Jack, library director. “We also had programming through Zoom.
“We did story time for the little kids, Dungeons and Dragons for teens, anything we could do to provide some fun.
“I think it was a good space. We limited people coming in. It was very different from what we imagined, but we still did a good job in serving the community.”
Now that the staff is permitted back to the Walbert Avenue location, it’s all systems go with smiles all around.
“We’re all happy to be back in a new place,” Jack said.
“I love it,” librarian Aimee Joy Grillo said, who was working at the reference desk. “It was so nice to come home. It was nice to come back to our space.”
The familiarity of home is not the only plus the library has to offer.
“For me personally it’s having the meeting room,” Grillo continued.
“Now, we can have more patrons participate in our programs.”
“It‘s great,” Jessica King said, who also works at the reference desk. “I like the lighting and the colors, and I like having more space.”
“It’s definitely an upgrade,” Thobeania Augustin added, as she shelved materials. “I like the children’s room a lot. I like to see children read.”
Circulation assistant Diane Stull also commented.
“We’re happy to be home,” Stull said. “I’m especially thrilled about the new kid’s area. Everyone can fit. We’ll be able to run three programs at a time.”
Jack said the aim was to give the smallest patrons a larger space and also to be able to have a community room, space for staff and a larger area for books.
She said Karen Ramsey served as architect for the project.
“All of the contractors were bid out. Ultimately, we worked with Boyle Construction,” she explained. “They’re amazing. We couldn’t have done this without them.”
The figures tell an impressive story.
“We were 5,400 square feet and now we’re 11,420,” Jack said. “The staff are upstairs and now it’s public space.
“We were also able to give the Friends of the Library some space.
“They fundraise for the library and help us with a lot of the things we do. They now have a used book space.”
King said people come in and smile.
“They’re a little lost at first, but I think they’re very happy with it,” King said. “It still has everything that they’re used to, but I think they’re very happy with it. It still has everything that they’re used to, but they appreciate the face-lift.”
Expanded parking is another bonus.
“Having more parking space might be mundane but it’s important,” King said.
Thrift and careful planning made the new building a reality.
“The library has been saving money for a new building since 1998,” Jack explained. “If you live in Parkland, you pay library tax. We had been saving money every year for a new building.
“It was savings from the taxes we collected. We also received RACP Grant through the state.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and some minor hurdles did not significantly affect the building progress.
“We were a little delayed here and there,” Jack said. “And some supplies didn’t come in but we’re happy to be finished.”
“I just feel we’re finally able to provide an appropriate space for Parkland residents.
“Now we’re in a space that’s going to be more comfortable for everyone.”