Scotch Plains, Fanwood Libraries To Join Consortium to Increase Access

For Union County HAWK

SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD — Later this fall, if there is a book or some other item that is hard to track down, it will get a lot easier to find as the Scotch Plains and Fanwood libraries intend to join a consortium of more than 30 other libraries that will give residents access to all materials at all member libraries.

The Libraries of Middlesex Automation Consortium (LMXAC) consists of several dozen libraries, mostly in Middlesex County but also several in Union County, including Cranford, Kenilworth, Plainfield, Springfield, Roselle, Roselle Park and Elizabeth. By November, the Scotch Plains and Fanwood libraries should be connected to the system, according to Scotch Plains Library Director Michelle Willis, who told Union County HAWK this week that she has heard that a few other towns in the county also are considering joining.

Being part of the consortium, she explained, will allow library patrons to request any book or other item, either via their home computer or in person. If the library on Bartle Avenue does not carry the requested item, one of the other libraries in the consortium will likely have it and it can then be delivered to Scotch Plains for the borrower, who will also be able to return the book or item to any library that is part of the consortium. As an example, Ms. Willis said that if someone decided to read all 20 novels by a popular author, but the Scotch Plains Library did not carry all of those titles, a request for the missing titles could be made and those books could then be delivered by one or more of the other libraries within the consortium.

“I think people will be pleased,” she told HAWK. “You’ll be able to get whatever you want because some library will have it.” She added that Scotch Plains residents will have priority for any requested materials that the library carries in-house.

The library returned to its normal operating hours in January, and Ms. Willis said things are back to pre-pandemic levels by all measurements. “We’re busy,” she said. “We’re emptying out the returns bins every hour.”

She said that during the time when the library was closed to visitors, the staff spent time organizing all the shelves, cataloging the collections and determining what, if anything, was no longer useful. Having the library in good order will be helpful as it joins the consortium, she said.

The library’s summer reading program “went really well,” she said, and program plans for the fall will continue to be a mix of in-person and online events. Events via Zoom are better for adults than children, she said, and make it easier to secure speakers such as the zoologist who recently spoke from Alaska about his work with polar bears and a member of an expedition that successfully located polar explorer Ernest Shackleton’s sunken ship from 100 years ago in Antarctica.

In the meantime, Ms. Willis waits as township redevelopment officials review proposals for redeveloping the downtown, with a major part of that effort being the construction of a new library to replace the existing facility that was built in 1968. Preliminary plans call for a new, 27,000-square-foot, two-story library to be built on the site of the current library.

Interior renderings of the proposed library, developed by Netta Architects LC of Mountainside, show a first floor containing a large room for adults with bookshelves, tables and small study rooms on the north side and an adult reading room and a large multi-purpose community room on the south side. The second floor includes another adult room with bookshelves, tables and small study rooms on the north side and, on the opposite side, a large children’s room with bookshelves and tables as well as an area for teens and young adults. A room for computers for public use also is included on the upper floor.

Ms. Willis told HAWK she has not heard of any time frame for when those plans will be formalized and that she is prepared to do whatever is necessary to assist in closing out the existing library and moving operations to temporary quarters while a new facility is built.

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