Throughout the last several years, the function of a public library has slowly begun to alter — going from a place to check-out books, to a hub of activity with something for patrons of every age and skill level to do.
“The gist of the modern library is changing every day,” said Kimberly Paone, library director at the Matawan Aberdeen Public Library. “We’re really looking to be the library of the future, not just the present, so that is why it is important to maintain what libraries always were, but also become what libraries need to be now.”
The Matawan Aberdeen Public Library recently underwent renovations to provide patrons with a modernized space that is more user-friendly and geared towards any needs they may have, Paone said.
“This is our second big renovation, so we maintained some of the old and incorporated the new, and I think it is nice and much more welcoming,” she said. “I think we just basically brightened things up, cleaned things up and made it a little more inviting and cozy.”
According to Paone, the renovation involved rearranging the upstairs space — replacing flooring, repainting and updating the space with new additions — to make the library a place people want to come to.
“We rearranged the reference area to create more space, opened up our Bay Window area,” she said.
According to Paone, since many of the questions the library receives are computer questions, they created a Computer Assistance Desk, located right upon entrance into the library.
“It will be beneficial that the first person who a patron meets when coming into the reference area is a computer help technician,” she said. “If there is a book related question or more research related question, then the patron is sent across the room to the reference librarian and I think it has been a great help already,” she said.
Paone said the children’s area is also completely different.
“We have new carpeting, we have some new furniture down there and we rearranged things so that there’s a separate study area and a separate play area,” she said. “There’s new magnetic toys and all kinds of wonderful things for the youngest of our patrons and there’s a seating area for the parents while the kids are playing.”
A new bench has also been added into the library, courtesy of the Friends of the Matawan Aberdeen Public Library, for when the group does there book sales.
“That used to be just shelving … so now there is a little space for someone to sit and take a look at the book sale books which is nice,” Paone said.
The latest renovations come after the library renovated its basement in 2013. “We had a lot of storage down there and unused and misused space and we cleared it all out and created a large meeting room that can be split in half, a larger staff room and sort of brought some organization to the space,” Paone said.
At a recent council meeting in Aberdeen Township, Councilwoman Margaret Montone raved about the updates to the library.
“The renovations are spectacular,” she said. “If you have not had a chance to get over to the library and see what’s going on, I would suggest you do … it just looks so beautiful.”
“Libraries are changing now … they are truly becoming places where a community can go and relax and meet each other and sit and talk and … I think they have just done a wonderful job of setting that up and you’ll be very happy with what you see.”
Paone said the goal going forward is making sure the library continues to be a place for people to feel comfortable and meet and making sure patrons know about all the programs, activities and resources they have access to.
“We have all of these great programs and we feel like we’re not reaching the people who need to know about these things,” she said. “We want this [to be] a comfortable space for people to meet and for the exchange of ideas and for real human face-to-face interaction, but we also want our patrons to understand and take advantage of all the electronic resources that we have.”
Some services patrons have access to with a click of a button include lynda.com, an online training library which allows patrons to learn technology, creative and business skills for personal growth or to spice up a resume; IndieFlix, which offers unlimited access to thousands of shorts, features and documentaries; Job & Career Accelerator; tutor.com; Zinio Digital Magazines; and Mango Languages, which offers dozens of foreign language courses.
“We have all these wonderful resources and we want people to know about them and use them and realize that the library is not just about books anymore,” Paone said.
The library also offers other services such as story-time for young children, craft-related activities, an AARP Tax Assistance program and small group and one-on-one computer classes with reference librarians and computer technicians.
“We also have a Museum Pass Program that is available to our card holders to the Grounds for Sculpture, the Guggenheim Museum, the Garden State Discovery Museum and the Intrepid,” Paone said. “Those are very popular and is a program that we have had for several years and it’s really caught on and something that I think some people don’t necessarily know about.”
Paone said for a medium sized library, they offer a lot more than what people might expect upon first sight of the building.
“I feel like we are doing a lot … we’re kind of a medium sized library, and people are always surprised when they come in, because outside it looks very tiny and then inside there’s a whole world going on, but we want to become the forward thinking library that we need to be,” Paone said. “I think that is what libraries need to do now, we can’t be in the dark ages and we’re not. I think libraries have consistently kept up with technology and have sometimes been in the forefront of technology … and that is really wonderful.”
The Matawan Aberdeen Public Library is located at 165 Main St. in Matawan.
The library is open Monday and Thursday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
For more information, visit www.matawanaberdeenlibrary.com.