PRINCETON: Library in full fundraising mode

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
The Princeton Public Library will turn to big and small donors to help pay for renovating the second floor of the building for an estimated $2.9 million.
Library director Leslie Burger said Tuesday that the library had $617,000 in reserve money on hand and a pledge of a $750,000 matching challenge grant toward that total. That will leave the library staff needing to raise some $1.7 million in the coming months to make the project happen.
Ms. Burger has proposed overhauling the second floor in response to the changing needs of the more than 2,200 patrons who visit the library daily. In February and March, library staff did focus groups with members of the community, who pointed to the lack of study rooms and wanted clearly defined quiet space.
In response, the library would look to double the number of such rooms from five to 10 and create a larger group quiet room as part of other proposed changes that include 20 percent more seating and a new technology center for computer users.
“The second floor is really where we’re seeing some of those significant changes take place in terms of how people are working differently than when we designed this library 10 years ago,” Ms. Burger said Tuesday after the library board of trustees meeting. “So 10 years ago, all they wanted to do was talk. Now, they want quiet space.”
She said many patrons work remotely instead of having a regular office and use the library because they can’t find quiet space at home or anywhere else. “So they come here where they can concentrate, contemplate and think about what they’re doing. So it’s kind of a Back to the Future thing.”
She said that when the library was built, it was done so with “maximum flexibility” to accommodate changing needs.
In terms of raising $1.7 million, Ms. Burger plans to seek “larger gifts” from big donors “and then ask the entire community to help us complete the campaign.” She said she is looking to complete the fundraising within the next six months, although there are no plans to hire a fundraising consultant.
All the money would have to be in hand or pledged before work starts, she said. The library might have to turn to the town for a bridge loan to start work and avoid a delay that would lead to escalating labor and material costs.
She said the proposed work plan would be to do everything at once, so that would mean closing the second floor to patrons for three months in early 2016. That timeline is not set in stone, however.
“I think it’s part of how we continue to demonstrate that this library is thinking about the future,” she said when asked why she was embarking on such an ambitious project. “We understand that for libraries, this library and any library to be valued and to be fully integrated into the way people live their lives, we have to be paying attention to what’s going on around us.”