New, improved library reopens in Middletown

Assemblyman donates $100,000 at Friday dedication ceremony

BY KAREN E. BOWES Staff Writer

Staff Writer

MIDDLETOWN — While most patrons of the newly renovated Main Library were busy checking out, one resident was already dropping off — $100,000, to be exact.

Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina (R-Monmouth/Middlesex) donated the balance of his $100,000 pledge to the library last Friday, to be used toward the recently completed renovation project.

“Now enjoy life and read as many books as you like,” Azzolina said to the small crowd gathered in the new reading/hearth area. “Reading is the foundation of a literate and liberated society.”

Randall Gabrielan, director of the library board of trustees, accepted the donation and announced that the hearth area will be named in honor of the Azzolina family. The library reopened Oct. 8 without fanfare after 17 months of renovations. According to Gabrielan, “We opened as soon as we were able,” adding that last-minute inspections and other paperwork were among the many reasons why the opening was delayed.

“Oct. 23 at 7 a.m. will be the grand rededication ceremony,” Gabrielan said. “There will be the usual speeches and invited officials. I expect the highlight of the dedication will be the cake.”

The renovated library, New Monmouth Road, has increased in size from 26,000 to 39,000 square feet, according to Gabrielan. The hub — the large open area nearest the entrance — holds periodicals, new books, CDs and DVDs, and was conceived by Susan O’Neal as the heart of the library.

The Teen Zone will come as a welcome respite to adolescent readers. It features closed doors and is decorated in funky colors with movable furniture.

High school students added personal touches by designing several chairs inspired by famous paintings. Phil Connelly, a student from Middletown High School South, created an Andy Warhol chair, while Stacy Molski, also of South, re-created a Van Gogh scene, among others.

There is a closed-door group study room with oversized booths and computer plug-ins for Internet access, a local history room and a quiet reading area with comfortable chairs and small end tables. In addition, the reference area boasts 17 computer terminals, while the children’s room is home to several more.

Azzolina hopes children and adults alike will benefit from his donation.

“Education is a top priority in our family,” said Azzolina. “We think our contribution will go a long way toward achieving that goal here in our hometown. The Azzolinas and Scadutos have been here for half a century, which makes me feel I’ve been around this town a long, long time.”

The assemblyman’s son, Joseph Jr., and nephew, Phil Scaduto, were also on hand for the event.