HomeCherry Hill NewsOpening of new building paves the way for Cherry Hill Public Library’s...

Opening of new building paves the way for Cherry Hill Public Library’s transformation

The opening of the new Cherry Hill Public Library building in December 2004 came at a time of transition for libraries across the area.

The growing amount of information on the Internet meant the library’s role in a community was changing. Libraries were not the go-to places for research as they had been in the past. Instead, the public wanted libraries to go beyond the shelves of books and rows of computers and give patrons a more interactive educational experience.

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The Cherry Hill Public Library’s new building came with infrastructure for a growing technological world, meeting space for community organizations, an entire floor dedicated to the children’s department and more. The opening of the new building helped pave the way for library to be at the forefront of the community a decade later.

Taking the lead with technology


Dozens of people visit the Cherry Hill Public Library every day to use one of the public PCs or use the library’s wifi network to get work done on their own device. In 2014, the library had 67,000 people use a public PC and about 23,000 use the wifi network. Library Director Laverne Mann said the new building makes it possible for the library to handle a large number of users at one time.

“We have to have the infrastructure to support an influx,” she said.

Technology at the library goes well beyond just using a computer. As technology has evolved, new programs have been formed to benefit members.

“We have been looking particularly for staff that have tech skills, and we created an emerging technologies position,” Mann said.

Mann credited Melissa Brisbin, the library’s emerging technologies librarian, with leading demo programs for those looking to learn about their new mobile device.

“She does a lot of one-on-one mobile device help,” Mann said. “Ten years ago, mobile device help wasn’t relevant. Now people are getting those as gifts, people are buying them and they need our experience.”

The library also has technology most people don’t have at homes. Named the “Maker Playground,” the library has everything from Makey Makey kids, a button maker, snap circuit kits, drawing kits and more.

“It’s a lot of things that are unusual to people such as Arduinos and Makey Makeys,” Mann said. “They’re very hands-on.”

The most recent addition to the Maker Playground is a GoPro camera. Library members are able to borrow to GoPro camera for one week. In November, the library also plans to unveil a new 3D printer.

The center of the community

The new library building was built with a number of large meeting spaces, including a conference center complete with overhead projectors and a sound system.

With the new space came the opportunity for businesses, clubs and other organizations to hold events at the library.

“We’re probably on the level of any corporate space you can rent in the area with the A/V package, and it’s generally a lot cheaper,” Mann said.

In addition to renting out the space, the library is able to use it for its own events. Last July, when children’s book author Dan Gutman did a presentation and book signing at the library, nearly 200 people were able to fit inside the conference center for the event.

Mann said the library’s meeting space is highly sought after today, with most of the time slots for 2016 already filled.

“We’re booking a year in advance now,” she said. “For our library programs, we have to designate our dates early enough so we can have space.”

Children’s department expands

Another huge feature with the new building was an entire floor for the children’s department. The second floor is full of books, computers and play areas for children of all ages.


With more space with the children’s department came a larger number of children’s programs. Mann said the department has focused on going beyond story time and reading programs and coming up with new ways for kids to enjoy a fun educational experience.

“They tapped in very early to the Minecraft phenomenon,” Mann said. “They were able to set up Minecraft programs where they were creating zombie shelters or roller coasters. Those sort of things make people think of us as a place to go.”

Story times still have a huge role in the children’s department. They have been expanded to include programs for all ages, including Rhyme Time for infants and toddlers under 2 years old, Story Time for 3 to 6 year olds and Page Turners for those in elementary school.

“(Children’s Department) set the base for early literacy and it carries on through their early school years,” Mann said.

A library for all residents

Mann feels one of the great things about Cherry Hill is the diverse community. The challenge with running a library in Cherry Hill is providing services for people who come from all ages and backgrounds.

“It’s a good challenge,” Mann said. “That’s what I like about public libraries. I love the variety and age range. I always tell the librarians we hire that anything you enjoy could come into play here.”

The library has made changes over the years as demographics in the township have changed.

“We’ve had some bilingual story times and programming,” Mann said. “Our library card application is in English and Spanish now.”

Changes in people’s taste and activities have also required the library to change. The library has spent the last few years building up its e-book and digital magazine collection. About 8 percent of the library’s circulation in 2014 was e-books and digital magazines. That number is growing about 2 percent each year.

In addition, the library offers some non-traditional items members can check out.

“You may not think you can to the library and check out a GoPro camera or an American Girl Doll or museum passes,” Mann said. “We want to move a larger realm of these non-traditional collections.”

The library continues to develop unique adult programs. In November, the library plans to debut a Cookbook Club for adults.

“Patrons and staff will use one cookbook for the month, then they’ll choose an item and share it,” Mann said.

Social media has helped make these new programs successful. Mann said Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have given the library a new forum to promote events and showcase new programs in a new way.

A library built by the people, for the people


As much as the new building helped the library transform over the last 10 years, Mann said it wouldn’t be able to progress if it weren’t for the help of the community.

The Friends of the Cherry Hill Public Library, more than 500 members strong, has funded many of the library’s purchases over the past decade. In addition to building and infrastructure upgrades, Friends’ funds have been used to purchase a lot of the Maker Playground equipment.

Mann said the community donates in non-monetary ways as well.

“We have people who aren’t working here do some programming,” she said. “It’s what our patrons want.”

Mann also credited the staff with making the library a lively place to spend time.

“It’s a different world for public libraries,” she said. “We really look for people who are innovative, who are creative, who want to serve our patrons in a front-facing way. We’ve built a really engaged staff.”

Mann said the library will continue to be on the forefront of technology, pop culture and programs. The library has plans to build digital collection of streaming movies and music in the coming years and will continue to launch new demos on technology as it emerges.


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