By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
The unassuming building at the corner of Ridge Road and Avenue of Two Rivers, with its boxy, fire-red brick facade and smallish patch of pavement for visitor parking, doesn’t quite do its innards justice.
Perhaps you’ve blown past it on your way to burger night at the Fromagerie, or you’re a snowbird who hasn’t stopped in for a while. It might be hard to figure this is a place where you can read an autographed print version of Benito Mussolini’s autobiography under supervision or a digitized bio of Il Duce on a Kindle. Or a place to buy locally-made jewelry and student art. Or to take a laptop and pull in free wi-fi while you watch sleepy Rumson go by.
This is the revamped and renovated Oceanic Free Library, fresh off a multi-month overhaul.
The library, for the first time in its 52 years at this location, has just wrapped up a six-month, $140,000 privately-funded interior renovation that, while nodding to the past with antique furniture and bookshelves, puts itself in position to flow with the shifting tide of technology and learning.
Gone is the pale blue carpet and the new-books section, which was really just a spot on a shelf among shelves. Replacing them are a new, black and gray, multi-patterned carpet and a rounded case, topped by a bronze Pan of Rohallion statue, for all the latest releases which sometimes has to be replenished up to twice a day, Director Nanette Reis said.
There’s a new “wi-fi bar” at the western window for anyone to come plug into the internet, and Kindles for in-library use.
Oceanic has moved beyond just a place to walk in, pick up a book and walk out, said Debra Williams, the library board’s chairwoman of development.
“Bottom line is we’re trying to make the community aware that we’re a place to get information,” she said. “We know we’re not going to be that place to get all your books, but we can be that information center, the place for the community.”
Along with its new look, the library is rolling out new programs, too.
While it’s always had a robust children’s program, the library is putting more focus on what members call the “lost” patrons teens and people between 25 and 50 years old. It’s kicking off a series of lectures at the end of the month, with talks focused on college visits, technology at schools and a smattering of historical information sessions.
And while this may seem late in the game, the library is putting more emphasis on the web by compiling a database to regularly update its members with emails and other media. With the help of a marketing specialist in town, the library will spend the next few months exploring different ways to lure in new members.
“We’re just trying to boost the awareness,” board President Lolly Ekdahl said. “Fresh look, fresh ideas.”
With about 7,000 residents in Rumson, the library, despite seeing three times as many visits the last two years, only has about 2,500 regular visitors, Reis said. A concerted outreach effort, coupled with the renovation, could potentially and hopefully, to board members bump those numbers.
“We’re trying to appeal to the rest of the community. We understand that library’s are changing and we need to change with that,” Williams said. “We’re a small library, but we have a lot to offer.”