The Joseph H. Vicari Sensory Space, in the Ocean County Library Toms River Branch exponentially expands the Library’s mission of “connecting people…building community…transforming lives.”
The space is designed to develop the senses, encourage communication and social interactions, relieve stress and anxiety, and promote calmness and well-being. It sends a positive message to people with varying degrees of sensory processing who might feel inhibited in social environments.
"There is a true sense of community that exists at all of our branches.”
"The Ocean County Library is a leader in recognizing a need and addressing it in an effort to make sure the library is a place that everyone can visit," Ocean County Commissioner Joseph Vicari said. "There is a true sense of community that exists at all of our branches.”
"The goal of the sensory space is to provide an area for children and adults with a variety of disabilities including autism spectrum disorders, developmental disabilities, post-traumatic stress disorder, cerebral palsy, memory loss, dementia and sensory processing disorders," said Ocean County Library Director Susan Quinn. "While these individuals are welcome to visit all areas of our library branch, this space is especially designed for them."
Ocean County Commissioner Joseph H. Vicari reviews plans for the sensory space with Ocean County Library Commission Chairperson Ruthanne Scaturro. Photo courtesy of Ocean County Public Relations.
"The library also provides resources that are designed to assist both the individual with autism and his or her caregivers during these challenging times," Quinn said.
"The purpose of creating this space is to provide an environment that develops the senses, encourages communication and social interactions, relieves stress and anxiety, and produces a feeling of calm and well-being."
"Here, we have provided a variety of products that are visually stimulating, tactile, calming and interactive," said Sara Siegler, Assistant Library Director. "The purpose of creating this space is to provide an environment that develops the senses, encourages communication and social interactions, relieves stress and anxiety, and produces a feeling of calm and well-being."
The Library’s Autism Resources Fair, traditionally held each April, inspired the concept.
Key individuals in development of the space include: Joseph H. Vicari, Library Liaison, Ocean County Board of Commissioners, Ruthanne Scaturro, Chair, Ocean County Library Commission, Library Commissioner Susan Hutler, past chair Ocean County Library Commission, The Ocean County Library Commission, Library Director Susan Quinn; Assistant Library Director Sara Siegler; Facilities Manager Joe Cahill; Assistant Facilities Managers Michael Erickson and Barry DePaul; Toms River Branch Chief Librarian Rachel Lavoie-Dohn; Jackson Branch Librarian 2 Wendi Smolowitz, Chair of the Library’s Autism Resources Committee; and Administrative Clerk Kelly Nichols.
The project architect was Phil Reina, Yezzi Associates, LLC, of Toms River, in consultation with Principal and Executive Director Massimo Yezzi. Reina’s previous experience in autism-sensitive design includes the Search Day School, Ocean Township, NJ.