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Shopping Center Bookstore May Provide Both a Library and Post Office Presence

Matthew Hersh

Ira Kaye, the proprietor of a bookstore that will soon open at the Princeton Shopping Center, is not only readying himself for his store's opening, but preparing to fill a need created at the shopping center when the Princeton Public Library moved out last month.

When the shopping center announced that it had leased the space for Mr. Kaye's Chestnut Tree Books last November, Mr. Kaye said he knew he was about to immerse himself into a contentious issue. Since that time, he admits that he has become savvy to the politics of the community.

"I think we're looking to fill a void that some people see even with the library downtown," Mr. Kaye said. "This [location] is particularly good to get books, ... because of the accessibility."

Mr. Kaye has been in talks with both representatives of the Library and Princeton Township about trying to set up a terminal at the shopping center for residents to receive various Library services without heading into town. He said those talks are still in the works.

Robert Levine, who was on the ad hoc committee to keep a library branch at the shopping center, said both Chestnut Tree Books and the Library have been exploring how that presence can be maintained.

"We know from our original efforts that there is a lot of interest in having a place at the shopping center so we intend to pursue it vigorously," Mr. Levine said.

Both Mr. Levine and Township Committee member Bill Hearon presented their ideas to the Library's board last night. Library Director Leslie Berger said that to pursue a presence of a scale larger than simply a drop-off terminal, the library will have to weigh certain financial ramifications.

"We need to think carefully, because whatever we do has financial implications whether it be staffing, or technology," she said, adding "that the library already has two drop-off points at the shopping center, one in the parking lot near the future Chestnut Tree Books site, and one near Eckerd Drugs. At present, she said, all of the Library's attention has been geared toward the opening of its new facility downtown.

"I think we need to get experience from both the Library staff and the people using this building before we make a decision about what we might want to do, if anything, at the shopping center," she said. "We're not ready to make that decision at the moment."

"[The Library] has been focusing on it's opening, so it has not been on the front burner for them," Mr. Hearon said.

The Township Committee member added that the three options all parties are considering for the shopping center include, a computer terminal where users can order library books and pick them up at the bookstore, a counter staffed by bookstore employees who will check out the Library's books, and an actual Library kiosk located within the store.

Mr. Hearon added, however, that a presence at the shopping center would be a convenience, and should not take away from residents using the new $18 million facility on Witherspoon Street.

"The Library is absolutely state-of-the-art, and I'm pleased with what we have for the community," he said.

Postal Unit

Chestnut Tree Books may prove to serve more than simply a demand for books. Mr. Kaye said plans are in the works to contract the satellite postal unit that has eluded the shopping center since its previous contractor, the Skater's Alliance, lost its lease last August.

There had been efforts to install the unit at Glenmarle Woolworks, but logistical and spatial constraints prevented that from happening.

"We're very close to signing a contract with the post office to have a [postal unit] in Chestnut Tree Books," Mr. Kaye said. The people working there would be employees of the post office and the 200-square-foot unit would be a branded post office module.

New Café

Another amenity to which Library users had become accustomed was the adjoining café which has been closed for the last several weeks. Mr. Kaye said that along with the bookstore, the cafe will emerge as a "social" element at the shopping center.

The café and the bookstore, which have separate ownerships, will work together to serve each other. Mr. Kaye said there will be an indoor corridor that will directly link the bookstore and the café.

Mr. Kaye said that the bookstore and café could become a flagship attracting businesses to other shopping center stores.

"With keeping the café open, and with the bookstore opening, it is my hope that [other stores] benefit from it," he said.

Mr. Kaye is targeting a July 1 opening date.

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