LIBRARY BLISS: Branch building will see major upgrades, keeping in line with Humphrey’s long-term vision & goals

Josh Humphrey has always been a visionary. Going back to when he was a youngster, he always saw things globally, never narrowly. So none of this should come as a surprise to anyone who has known Kearny’s long-time library director. He’s been at the helm of so many upgrades and changes to a library that has always been a model system, the envy of the region if you will.

Now he will oversee yet another ambitious project, a one-story addition to the branch in the northern part of town — and it will require no additional new funding to pay for it. But don’t just think of this as a simple addition, because it’s much more storied than that, as you’re about to find out.

“The Kearny Public Library has been thrilled to serve the Town of Kearny since the main library was built in 1907. It has long been our goal to serve as the living room and center of this vibrant community,” Humphrey said. “With this in mind, we are always looking to improve both our services and our buildings to better serve our many patrons. Our newest project has the potential to be our best yet.”

That may be an understatement.

“The branch library has been a part of Kearny’s library system since the town acquired its location in 1927 at 759 Kearny Ave. Since that time, we have embraced the branch as a unique neighborhood library.” Humphrey said. “Using our reserve funds, we are currently planning a project that will see us expand the branch with a one-story addition at the back of the building that will measure approximately 30 feet long and 15 feet wide, along with a large outdoor deck. We will not be expanding our footprint, as this new addition will fit nicely in our existing ample yard space.

“We will use this new space to address the only major problem of the branch — the lack of an all-purpose, versatile program area,” he said. “We hope to add flexible seating options and media equipment, turning it into a space we can use for a variety of programs and events. It will be a great opportunity to bring some of our successful events over from our larger main library space.”

In essence, think of the interior addition as a multi-purpose room, with a working fireplace, a work counter and a handicap-accessible bathroom. The deck will allow for outdoor programing and it will include a ramp to access the rest of the exterior gardens along Stuyvesant Avenue.

A plain wall will be included outdoors, too, that could serve as a large screen for movie or TV screening.

All told, it will allow up to 80 additional patrons to access the branch.

Last month, Humphrey hosted RSC Architects, Library Board members and he also invited nearby residents to an open house at the branch to explain all that was in the works —the response he got was extraordinary, he says. Then, a week ago, at a council meeting, he and the architect addressed the public and the governing body.

“I was here months ago when this was kind of in the dream stage, so this is an addition we want to put onto our branch library location using our reserve funds built up over the last decade,” Humphrey said. “We were lucky enough after that meeting to have the opportunity to work with our partner, RSC Architects and they have been wonderful throughout the process so far … I know a lot of library directors and I know how lucky I am to have the support of a council like this, a town administrator … and my council liaison, library champion (Third Ward Councilwoman) Eileen Eckel … we are a library on the rise in a town on the rise.”

Meanwhile, Jeff Schlecht is a senior project manager with RSC and is in charge of planning the project. He, too, addressed the governing body and says the project will run $600,000.

“Awarding a contract at the turn of the year (is the goal),” he said. “Then, starting construction in the spring with about a 9-month construction duration to be occupied early winter, late fall 2024.”

Eckel, meanwhile, was extremely enthusiastic about the plans.

“Josh, you had a vision for this from the beginning,” Eckel said. “It’s really come to fruition. …It’s a great room and there’s a fireplace in there and that’s a nod to the original building … it (all) fits right in.”

Anyone else who wishes to view more of the specific details may also stop by the branch when it’s open to peruse the renovation documents.

Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.