SEA ISLE CITY — The 8,000 children’s books were unopened, the DVDs unwatched, the magazines sitting uncreased and unread.
But all that changed Tuesday when Cape May County opened the new Sea Isle City branch library.
The two-story $5 million library on Central Avenue replaces a city branch one-third smaller on JFK Boulevard. The library was built with two outdoor decks overlooking the city’s marshes, a coffee shop and the city’s historical museum.
“Wow, what a great Christmas present,” Sea Isle resident Marianne Lombardi said as she pushed a stroller with her 1-year-old grandson, Jack, onto the balcony.
“I am so impressed. Jack and I will be coming here very often. Zumba classes for grandma and pop-up books for Jack.”
The county built the 14,000-square-foot library on city land that was formerly a boatyard and before that served as the city’s former sewage-treatment plant. It was designed to capture the sweeping bayfront views, architect Robert Garrison said.
Picture windows on the first and second floors provide plenty of natural light. The decks have tables and chairs where people can read a book, check their email by wi-fi or socialize under the shade of the deck’s pergola.
More public buildings in Cape May County are capitalizing on its natural beauty to provide more public access to coveted places like the ocean and bay.
Stone Harbor’s new library will be built adjacent to the beach with its own outdoor seating. Ocean City’s new two-story Welcome Center on the Route 52 causeway will have wrap-around decks providing panoramic views of the wetlands.
Stone Harbor Mayor Suzanne Walters noted that towns are obligated to draft plans for providing public access to waterways such as the ocean and the bay. As a result, towns are spending more time thinking about how much access the public has to these natural resources, she said.
“You probably will see more of these kinds of projects as towns make these natural resources available to the public,” she said.
Sea Isle’s library is one of eight branches in the county system. Library Director Deborah Poillon said she feels fortunate to open a new library when some counties, including neighboring Cumberland, are considering cutbacks.
“A lot of people say libraries are things of the past. But we get busier every year,” she said. “We are fortunate that financially we can do it and the Freeholder Board sees the need for public libraries.”
Freeholder and Sea Isle City Mayor Leonard Desiderio cut the ribbon Tuesday to the building with the help of city schoolchildren.
“We are so proud to open this building today. You don’t know,” Desiderio said. “I want our children to learn at an early age where they can go and what (a library) can do for them. This building will open many doors to the children of Sea Isle.”
The building is the county’s first that meets environmentally friendly design standards, its architect said.
“There’s something peaceful about looking out over the meadows,” Garrison said. “We wanted an open, warm feeling.”
Garrison said he was proud to work on a public project that residents will enjoy for generations.
“It is the most gratifying thing that can happen to an architect. We have a gift as architects and have a responsibility to make sure that what we build is for the betterment of the people,” he said.
George McDermott, of Sea Isle City, checked out a suspense novel by Harlan Coben he was looking forward to reading. He reads five or six books at a time, his wife, Peggy McDermott, said.
“I was really surprised to find it,” he said. “This is his latest one.”
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