This is the Rutherford Library Foundation
Updated: May 6, 2019
by Jennifer Ersalesi
The Rutherford Library Foundation has found ways to financially support the library’s commitment to the community. The Rutherford Public Library is an incredible asset to our community and the residents of our town enjoy the many programs, events, and resources that the Library offers. This is Rutherford spoke with Liz Fichtel, the current president of the Library Foundation and Anne McCormack, Emeritus Director, to find out more about the amazing work that the Foundation does to ensure the Library has what it needs to continue offering the community such valuable resources.
TIR: When was the Library Foundation created?
AM: In 2010, the Library Board approached me and asked if I would help form a Foundation with Trustees Patricia Wester and Nan Giblin. I had promoted the foundation idea as a [Library Board] Trustee so I was delighted to help with this challenge. We engaged the consultant who helped form the Ridgewood Library Foundation, Catherine Donnelly. With her guidance and support over the course of a year, we successfully incorporated, registered as a New Jersey Charitable Organization, and established our Federal Tax Identification Number. Nan Giblin served as the first President of the Foundation, while I served as its Vice President. Pat Wester served as Secretary, and in her capacity as Library Board President provided a strong link to the Trustees. Nan Giblin needed to resign in 2011, and at this time Pat Wester and I continued to finalize the formation of the Foundation.
LF: The Library Foundation was established in 2011, with a two-fold intent: to raise capital funds for the Library and to eventually develop a basis of continual financial support.
TIR: Patricia Wester, Emeritus Director of the Library Foundation, told TIR, "I was very proud to be part of the Library Board of Trustees who made the decision to establish the Foundation almost 9 years ago. We saw the need to address the economic challenges that we and all libraries were facing, and continue to deal with today. This was a proactive decision that expanded the possible funding sources for the Library. The Foundation has been effective in fundraising for the renovation of the first floor a few years ago, and is gearing up to assist with the second phase of renovations, which will address the mezzanine level. These improvements would not have been possible without the commitment and dedication of our Foundation Board and our Library Director, Judah Hamer." The Library Foundation enhances and expands the services provided by the library. Can you provide some examples of how the Foundation has done this?
The Foundation has, since its inception, focused on raising funds for capital improvement projects, since maintaining the physical infrastructure for a 21st century library is so key to sustaining a robust level of programs and services. - Foundation President Liz Fichtel
In 2016, the Library embarked on a major renovation of its first floor and mezzanine levels, using private funds for this project. Major upgrades were made to the lighting, electrical and data infrastructure. The Foundation provided support by funding the refurnishing of the entire children’s room, the computer lab, along with portions of the main floor and mezzanine. This year, the Foundation funded the first wave of enhancements to the Library’s auditorium, which was not revitalized during the 2016 renovation. This infrastructure is critical to sustaining the variety of programs and services offered by the Library. For instance, 732 people use the computers every week. The Library’s investment in that lab is key to giving free public access to technology and the internet for people of all ages.
TIR: How does the Board of Directors work together to determine how to support the library?
LF: The Foundation works hand-in-glove with the Library Board of Trustees and its Director, Judah Hamer, to identify facility upgrades that are needed to sustain a dynamic profile of programs. We are now raising funds for the second round of construction at the Library. Over the past few years the Library has significantly expanded its technology and public programs. The community has responded well and the Library is busier than ever. Over 150,000 people visit annually and nearly 20,000 attend programs. To keep meeting the demand for classes, activities, we need to improve our program and classroom spaces.
TIR: You mentioned that a second round of construction will begin soon. Can you tell us more about the changes that will be made at the Mezzanine level?
LF: Phase Two renovations at the Library will involve creating and furnishing two rooms on the mezzanine level. These spaces will accommodate groups for story time, children’s crafts, robotics, coding sessions, art classes for all ages, English-as-a-Second Language courses, book clubs, film screenings and other special events. The Library runs several programs every day it is open. Often these are scheduled concurrently (e.g. during after school and evening hours), so there is a need for multiple spaces of different sizes. Creating program rooms will support the library’s function as a community hub for learning and education.
TIR: There have already been upgrades made to the auditorium in the basement level of the Library. Tell us more about that.
LF: While Phase Two also includes updating the library’s auditorium, work has already been started. Until late 2018, the auditorium had not been updated since it was built in 1975. Recent upgrades include rehabilitation of the ceiling, installation of energy-efficient LED lighting, painting and new flooring. Finishing this space will involve replacement of the worn and tired kitchenette. The auditorium is another place in the building where groups and classes meet.
TIR: Will there be any upgrades made to the main floor of the Library?
LF: Down the road the Foundation will look to replace the 1975 shelving in the adult area. This is the most expensive library furnishing, an investment that lasts decades. New shelving will enhance accessibility and the utilization of space in the building.
TIR: Part of the mission of the Library Foundation is to “support the Library’s commitment to providing lifelong learning services to the community”. How does the Foundation do this?
LF: The Library is the single open public space in Rutherford where any resident of any age can pursue lifelong learning. There are many different ways people can engage the Library. These include important legacy programs such as story hour, class visits, outreach to pre-k and kindergarten children, book clubs, and help with answering questions and finding information. The Library also offers a broad range of learning opportunities that are not so traditional but meet the needs of people in the community: 1:1 tech tutoring, small group technology instruction, coding classes, chess club, music & movement, art classes, robotics, and English language learning classes.
TIR: The Library Foundation will be having their Gala on May 11th at Il Villaggio in Carlstadt. At each Gala, you honor a particular group or organization. How do you determine who should receive this recognition?
LF: The Foundation and the broader family of Library supporters recognize that the vibrancy of the Library is in large part a reflection of its strong connections throughout the community. With 3,000 visits weekly, the Library is the closest place Rutherford has to a town square. By virtue of its engagement with the community, the Library recognizes that it and many other individuals, organizations and institutions in some way improve and advance the quality of life in Rutherford. Honorees are chosen because they have made an outstanding contribution to our town.
TIR: This year you have chosen to honor Top Dawgs Exceptional Individuals. What can you tell us about this special program?
LF: Top Dawgs Exceptional Individuals is a terrific example of this giving to the community. This program was created by six Rutherford families who had been active in the Rutherford Football Club Travel Soccer Program and wanted to provide a soccer experience tailored to the needs of children with physical and/or developmental disabilities. The program is boosted by the help of volunteer high school “buddies” who are paired one-on-one with the players, providing them with training and often continuing the relationship beyond the field and court. Now in its sixth season, Top Dawgs has also expanded to include fall basketball. Since its inception, Top Dawgs has grown from 11 players to nearly 40 players and has had over 100 buddies volunteering over the years.
TIR: What can you tell us about the Gala? What happens at the event?
LF: The gala is sponsored by BCB Community Bank of Rutherford. BCB is also the main sponsor of Top Dawgs. This year is the Foundation’s sixth annual gala on Saturday, May 11, at Il Villaggio in Carlstadt. The event will feature delicious cuisine, a premium open bar, an exclusive silent auction, and a live band The Wedding Crashers. The event begins with an extended cocktail hour that attendees enjoy because it provides such a wonderful environment to connect with friends and neighbors. This is followed by dinner and dancing.