1234567891011121314151617181920212223242526272829303132333435363738394041424344454647PreviousNext SEA BRIGHT – Generations of beachgoershave enjoyed taking a book to the beach for some second-hand romance andadventure in the sunshine. The library is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Lance “Chick” Cunningham, who owned thesnack bar by the beach, Chick’s Dogs, and another small building nearby, gotinvolved on one of his stops to chat with the women at Hilton’s studio. Mayor Dina Long, council members,longtime library supporters and residents new and old came out last Saturday,March 16, to celebrate the rebirth of their library which, along with manystructures in this seaside borough, was a casualty of Super Storm Sandy in2012. For the crowd of supporters gathered forthe ribbon-cutting last Saturday, the long road to recovery from that loss madethe celebration extra special. But the Borough of Sea Bright has takenthat a step further by bringing an entire library to the beach. The Sea Bright Library and Cultural Arts Center occupies the second floor of the new Sea Bright Pavilion, which also houses borough offices, council chambers, community space and beach badge operations. Then things took a turn that would soundfictional, but file it under nonfiction: a Monmouth Beach philanthropist namedJay Ross offered to build the town a library. “Sarah is the grandmother of thelibrary,” Cunningham said. The JW Ross library and cultural art center was constructed in a southwest corner of the municipal parking lot. “People asked, ‘Why is that library in a corner of the parking lot?’ ” Rooney recalled. “Because that was where Jay wanted it.” The Pavilion rises three stories abovethe municipal parking lot, with glass doors on the library level opening to anexpansive outdoor deck offering cruise ship views of the beach, sea and sky. “The town of Sea Bright came together and voted 2-to-1 to move forward,” Rooney said. A contract for the construction of the pavilion portion of the project was awarded in the spring of 2018. Like grains of sand piling up to make adune, the journey to a town library was a long one for Sea Bright. Nearly four decadesago, local artist Sarah Hilton, who had a studio in town, decided to dosomething about the fact that the town lacked a library. For a town that didn’t have an officiallibrary until 1993, the new facility is a treasure that many Sea Brighters lookupon with personal pride. Like its predecessor, the new library willserve as a crossroads for the community, with up-to-the-minute features like a “cyberbar” where visitors can plug in to recharge their devices, work at computerstations, and space for meetings, like the knitting club local artist MeganGilhool hosts on Monday nights. There are also reading nooks with comfortablechairs and a children’s room with an ocean motif. Hilton, who is a friend of The Two RiverTimes founder Claudia Ansorge, also arranged for the first art exhibit in thesmall building, which featured the profile photos that photographer DannySanchez shot for the paper. It was a big success. After Ross’s death in 2007,philanthropist Franz von Ziegesar funded the expansion of the library in hismemory, increasing its size by 30 percent. “The kids needed something to do,” saidCunningham, who is now head of the borough planning board. “Sea Bright needed aplace to go.” “When we lost our library, it wasdevastating,” said the mayor, who said her son learned to read there as a preschooler.“It truly was devastating for this community.” Photos by Patrick Olivero Cunningham offered space for the libraryin his building, where he’d already put in a few games to keep the kids busy.The library project soon gathered steam. Volunteers lent their time and residentsdonated boxes of books. “We are here to celebrate Chapter Two ofthe Sea Bright Library,” Rooney said. “We have a library that is worthy of ouramazing community,” said Long. “Congratulations, Sea Bright!” By Eileen Moon Ross donated $100,000 for the project.“Jay was not easy to deal with,” Rooney recalled. “But my father could dealwith him.” Five years later, the library washeavily damaged as storm tides and heavy winds swept across Sea Bright,destroying much of the town. The borough held a referendum on construction of the new facility in September 2016, approving a total of $5.3 million toward a $12.73 million project that would include construction of a new municipal, fire, police and first aid complex. The borough anticipated covering the remainder of the costs with FEMA reimbursements and insurance coverage. “Everyone in this town came together andsupported this,” said Charlie Rooney, a councilman whose father, also CharlieRooney, was mayor when the first library was dedicated. This story originally appeared in the March 21-27 print edition of The Two River Times.