Access Knowledge: Holmdel Public Library Learning Center Coming to Bell Works

If you’ve got a tricky knee that tells you when rain is on it’s way, you know a little bit of what it’s like to be a Holmdel librarian.

Karen Nealis, director of the Holmdel Public Library since 2004 has been making the best of it in cramped, windowless quarters where programs and resources are limited by the space. And one thing she will not miss when the library moves to brand new digs at Bell Works this fall is the humidity.

“I can’t wait to move,” she says. “It will be great to stop ‘braille-ing the books’ as a way to tell what the weather’s like. We turn to each other now… ‘Wet books…it must be raining.’ Soon, we’ll have big beautiful windows that allow us to look out and see exactly what we’re in for when we leave the building!”

While Nealis is lighthearted about the looming logistical challenges of moving her entire operation from the basement of the Holmdel Municipal Center to a prime location in Bell Works, she is absolutely serious as she details the benefits of moving into the former home of innovation giant Bell Labs.

According to Nealis, Holmdel residents, the Bell Works community, people who live in Monmouth County — everyone will get added value when the doors open later this year. “New, better-configured spaces will give us the ability to respond to the current and future needs of our community-at-large as well as fulfill long-standing requests from Holmdel residents for improved programs and offerings,” she says.

“We’ll be offering a variety of improved services and amenities to our Holmdel and Monmouth County residents, but also to our host community at Bell Works,” says Nealis. “Right now, we get dozens of requests each week for research help from individuals as well as small and medium-sized businesses. We’re a valuable resource now. When we’re better equipped, with more accommodating spaces in a more accessible location — there’s no way to predict the demand for services.”

Here’s a snapshot of what patrons will enjoy in the new Holmdel Library Learning Center:

  • Free, on-site access to digital research and reference tools such as:,  Morningstar Investment Research Center, EBSCOhost journals, Hoover’s Online, Value Line, Small Business Reference Center, JSTOR Academic Journals, Weiss Insurance Ratings, as well as subscription-based resources for law, medicine, arts, entertainment, employment, grants and politics
  • Free, on-site access to digital editions of over 100 magazines, both current editions and archives;
  • Comfortable, welcoming lounge areas with plenty of charging stations;
  • A well-curated, relevant print collection;

“I honestly think people will grow to depend on this space.”

The Library and Learning Center will also be home to a permanent exhibit honoring the legacy of innovation at Bell Labs and AT&T.

This ambitious project has required extraordinary commitment and action by Holmdel Township and its Library leadership. Collaboration with the team at Bell Works has also been important. “The vision and the encouragement to make it a reality — from the architects at Gorlin (Alexander Gorlin) and Arcari+Iovino Architects (Anthony Iovino)  , and including Mr. Zucker and Somerset Development — they have been tremendously effective in working with us at the Library as well as (Holmdel) the Township leadership to make this happen,” Nealis says.

Earlier this year, Somerset Development presented a check for one million dollars to Holmdel Township’s mayor, Greg Buontempo, as part of their commitment to the project.

Building tenants will be issued a guest pass to use the library, and all New Jersey residents are eligible to apply for a free internet pass to access all the online materials. Holmdel residents, including new neighbors moving into the Toll Brothers communities being built adjacent to the Bell Works building, have borrowing privileges as well as access to online resources.

Nealis is also looking forward to launching a series of academic programs, currently impossible due to space restrictions, such as after-school tutoring programs and youth study groups.

“Holmdel residents have been petitioning for years for these services to be integrated into the library. My staff and I are thrilled that, soon, they can stop petitioning and simply sign up.”

SEE MORE: Bell Works