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LAYING TILE AT THE LIBRARY: This Katherine Hackl tile art depicting the Mercer Oak is on display in the Library's Princeton Collection Room. Ms. Hackl is one of nine artists who has their art displayed throughout the library.
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Princeton Public Library Celebrates Grand Opening of Facility on Saturday

A party that has been decades in the making will fill Princeton Public Library and spill out into the street on Saturday, May 15, when the library holds a grand opening celebration for its new building at Witherspoon and Wiggins streets.

The three-story library, possibly the largest new library built in New Jersey in a decade, opened April 24 to praises from the Princeton community, which has been anticipating the new building for several months now.

"It's been so gratifying to watch the expressions of delight on people's faces as they enter the new library," said Leslie Burger, library director. "People are amazed by what they find inside the new library and many have told me that the new library far exceeds their expectations. This community has been used to first-rate library services in a second-class building. Now, at long last, our facilities will match our services."

The new library is the result of a decades-long effort to replace the previous library, judged to be insufficient as early as 1972. The path to the new library was circuitous, containing scores of debates, studies, focus groups, and periods of inaction culminating in the late April opening.

"And now, while we continue the settling-in process, we want to invite everyone to join us in celebrating a new building that has been so long in the making." Ms. Burger said.

The celebration will begin with a short dedication ceremony at 10 a.m., followed by a full day of authors, musicians, artists, architects, puppeteers, and storytellers. There will be guided tours of the new library along with demonstrations of its specialty services.

"We have assembled a group of people and events that showcase both the wide variety of library services and the diversity of our community," said Ms. Burger. "There's something for everyone here."

The dedication ceremony will be preceded by a performance by an ensemble of the Princeton High School Studio Band. Vocalist and Princeton native Floyd Phox will sing Old Man River, a song associated with another Princeton native, Paul Robeson.

Witherspoon Street will be closed from Hulfish Street to Wiggins Street for the dedication, which will be followed by a Chinese lion dance and an invitation for visitors to enter.

Once inside the library, a series of author appearances will begin with Herman Parish in the children's room on the third floor. Other authors appearing are Pulitzer Prize-winner John McPhee, children's author Ann M. Martin, National Book Award-winner Joyce Carol Oates, playwrights Nilo Cruz and Emily Mann, children's book authors Margery Cuyler and Ann Beneduce, and Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator Gennady Spirin.

The library will have an outdoor stage in the parking lot at Hulfish and Witherspoon streets for musical entertainment. Mariachi Real de Mexico will kick off the outdoor entertainment at 11 a.m., followed by the rhythm and blues sounds of the Billy Hill Band, and Sage, a local jam band in the tradition of the Grateful Dead and Phish.

Inside the library, music will be provided by Princeton University's a cappella group the Princeton Katzenjammers. Three vocal ensembles from Princeton High School, Cat's Meow, Around Eight, and the Testostertones, will perform outside the teen center, as well as guitarist Enrico Granafei, who will offer Italian melodies.

The library's 13 pieces of new commissioned art will be dedicated during the celebration and several of the artists will be on hand to speak and answer questions. Faith Ringgold, an artist and children's book author, Mary Taylor, Tom Nussbaum, Armando Sosa, Katherine Hackl, and Margaret K. Johnson will each hold a "meet the artist" hour during the day.

Architect Nicholas Garrison of Hillier Architecture, who designed the building, will present a program on the history of the project. In addition, fledgling architects, aged five to 12, will have a chance to design their own structures during "Build It," a hands-on project in the third floor activity room.

Other children's events include the puppet presentation "Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimy," and storytelling by Susan Danoff in the story room on the third floor, which will also be the venue for storytelling by several members of the Princeton Storytelling Circle.

Costumed Shakespearean players will tour the library throughout the day, inviting visitors to join them in performing scenes from the Bard's works.

Two programs, "Dozens of Databases" and "Tomorrow's Library Today," will showcase some of the capabilities of the library's state-of-the-art Technology Center.

Guided tours of the new 55,000-square-foot building will be available throughout the day. The Library Store, operated by the Friends of the Princeton Public Library, will be open, as will the Open Book Café, operated by Chez Alice.

Princeton Public Library is at 65 Witherspoon St. in Princeton Borough. Special assistance is available for library customers with disabilities. Those with special needs should contact the library 48 hours before any program to arrange for accommodations. Call (609) 924-9529.

For more information on library programs and services, visit www.princeton library.org.

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