History of the Library (Page 5)

Miss Dunham Retires

At the end of 1963, Margaret Dunham retired after 31 years of service. She was hired to work in the library on April 15, 1932, and her final library working day was December 1, 1963. During that time, her salary had peaked at $6000 a year and an annual pension fund of $2,000 had been established. An Open House on December 29 from 3 to 5 P.M. was attended by 310 people, who signed the guest book and wished her well. She was feted again January 15, 1964 at a formal dinner given by the trustees at the Old Mill Inn with 80 people present. Miss Dunham received a silver inscribed tray, in appreciation of her services to the library, presented by the Board of Trustees. Her assistant, Eleanor Rickey, who also retired, was honored that night. On January 15, 1964, the Township Committee declared the day "Miss Dunham Day" throughout the municipality.

For a brief time, Josephine Fenstermacher served as Library Director. A resident of Somerville, she was former librarian at St. Bernard's School, Gladstone, and director of the Manville Public Library. A graduate of Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, with a B.A. degree in Library Science, her service was January 1 to September 29, 1964, with her contract terminated because of a difference in operating policies.

Willis F. Scheuerman, president of the Board, announced in late 1964 that more space was needed. He asked the trustees what could be done. Since shelves were very crowded, librarians encouraged borrowers to take home more than their normal book load. It was at this time that the Basking Ridge and Bernardsville Library trustees agreed to honor each other's cards on a trial basis. (In 1966 this policy was adopted on a permanent basis).

In the early 1960s, Herta Rosenblatt of Far Hills, a poet, began conducting a story hour on alternate Fridays for preschool children. A summer reading program for children, grades 1 through 8 was started, and circulation rose to 42,700 that year.

A New Director Appointed

Mariana M. Gibson was named director at the start of 1965 and eventually had a staff of three, including Harriet W. Ryder and Florence M. Bedell. Marjorie Scheffler was secretary to Mrs. Gibson. Mrs. Gibson had been a trustee with more than 12 years of service as a board member. A graduate of Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, she had trained at the Enoch Pratt Library School in Baltimore. The budget totaled $21,000 (the Township providing $12,000) with 18,000 volumes in the catalog and a circulation of 42,700 for the prior year. By the end of 1965, circulation rose to 50,261. In a little more than a decade, circulation had increased nearly 99%.

Officers and trustees of the Basking Ridge Library Association in 1965 included David M. Meeker, Beverley V. Meigs, Willis F. Scheuerman, George M. Donner, William Rowe, Gertrude O'Connor, Mae Bailey Wood, Kay O'Neill, Priscilla Carswell, Olga Terry, Lois Lincoln, Merle Chamberlain, and John Rehm.

Anne C. Ryan was hired as Mrs. Gibson's assistant in 1966. Mrs. Ryan, a Bernards resident since 1954, was a graduate of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.

Trustees voted to hire a library consultant to study the community's future needs. William Roehrenbech, director of the Jersey City Library, was retained at $500 to present a building site survey report. Beverley Meigs, vice president and chairman of the buildings and grounds committee, listed possible sites: Maple Avenue School property, and the Municipal Complex site at Lyons. Additionally, the Astor property was considered since the Township Committee's statement that it had no plans for its use. A $31,496 budget was introduced for 1967.

A book service for shut-ins began in 1967, as did a County bookmobile visit to Liberty Corner one hour every other week. Bernards population was 12,368 in 1967. Circulation was 61,832 a year, and the Township paid Somerset County $24,420.57 in taxes that year. Income amounted to $22,000 from the municipal government; $500, school board; $3,500 from Friends of the Library; $1,020 from apartment rental; $1,545.86 from NJ State Aid, and fines of $1,800.

A "Read and Ride" new library service for commuters was introduced in 1968-69 at the Basking Ridge and Lyons Railroad Stations. Its motto was: "Borrow at the Station, Exchange at the Station." Mrs. Gibson was instrumental in this interchange of paper back books for traveling residents. This program had a positive effect on fund raising efforts for the library among the commuting public.

In a letter to the public in 1969, trustees pointed out that it costs just under $17 per Bernards Township family to run the library for a year. During this time, the library consisted of seven rooms and an overloaded balcony. Space was tight; the library now owned over 60,000 volumes and was open 41 hours a week. Bernards had the third highest circulation figures in Somerset County, which topped 74,179.

A State Library official visited the Maple Avenue site, surveyed it, said the site was acceptable but the school building not suitable and could not be converted. It was suggested it be demolished. Reasons for demolishing the Maple Avenue School building were:
1. As a wood frame building, it was subject to higher insurance rates, with a greater risk of fire and resulting danger.
2. The floor framing was not strong enough to carry full stack loading that a library requires. In a building of that age (69 years) with wood framed floors, there are sags, leading to problems with books stacks.
3. The roof, exterior walls and windows were in very poor condition, calling for extensive repair and replacement.
4. The building did not meet present building and fire codes and would have to be updated in its entirety. The building was condemned for its use as a school because it wasn't safe.
5. The two story structure would have to be renovated for a required installation of an elevator to meet State requirements for the handicapped. (An elevator cost was $40,000.) Staffing and control of a two-story building would involve increased operating costs and would not allow optimum efficiency.
6. The Maple Avenue building contains 8,000 square feet. With projected plans calling for 13,500 square feet to adequately serve the community, a 5,500 square foot addition would be required.
Cost of renovation was estimated at $620,000, some $120,000 more than the total construction budget for a new structure, according to J. Robert Hillier, library architect. The Township Committee informed the library trustees that the Maple Avenue site would be available for use as a library two to two and a half years from then.

Population was increasing rapidly -- from 9,018 in 1960 to 13,305 in 1970 -- a 47% increase. At that time, circulation reached 74,133. In the library's continuing effort to better serve the growing community, a copy machine for the public was installed on a trial basis that same year, with one purchased after a successful trial. A microfilm reader was also introduced with funds contributed by the Kiwanis Club.

In January, 1971, Miss Dunham died, following a short illness.

Mrs. Gibson resigned as library director in May, 1971, after six and a half years of service. She and her husband purchased a local book store, called The Corner Book Store, and she decided to devote her entire attention to it. A former president of the Somerset Hills chapter of the American Association of University Women, some of her library accomplishments included the Shut-In and Read and Ride programs; organization of the library's pamphlet collection on New Jersey; a collection of material for the sight handicapped; and purchase of a photocopy machine. Upon Mrs. Gibson's departure, Mrs. Ryan was appointed acting director at $65 per week pending completion of library course work leading to a Master of Library Service (M.L.S.). She was appointed director in June after completing required courses at College of St. Elizabeth, Newark College and Rutgers University.

By 1971 the library had a total of 80,000 volumes, an increase of 8% over the previous year. The operating budget reached $60,812.

Heading the Basking Ridge Library Association Board of Trustees were Helen Mallon, president; Eleanor Braunmuller, vice president; George R. Donner, secretary; John Utz, treasurer.

Trustees felt the library should be on the South Maple Avenue site; with the Post Office and commercial area established, the center of activity for Bernards Township would include the library.

In 1972 the name was changed to the Bernards Township Library and voters approved a referendum providing for the construction of a new facility on South Maple Avenue, at the site of the former Maple Avenue School, originally built in 1903. Final tally was 3,047 yes, 2,202 no, with 85% of the Township's 6,976 eligible voters casting ballots. In addition, there were 494 absentee ballots. The vote was carried in all but one district, Liberty Corner. Thus, a $500,000 bond issue was approved.

As a stopgap measure to accommodate the growing population, the upstairs apartment was eliminated in 1972. The space was essential for the necessary services to borrowers.

In early 1973, the Township of Bernards passed a resolution "in grateful acknowledgment of valued services rendered" to the Bernards Township Library Association on its 75th Anniversary.

Ground breaking for the new library was held in May, 1973. Architect J. Robert Hillier of Princeton designed the building, which is situated on one and a fourth acres of land, one block from the village center. George A. Vocke, Inc. was the general contractor, and Walter Haber, director of the Baldwin Public Library in New York, was library consultant. The new building consisted of two floors, the upper one housing the children's area as well as the adult reading room. The lower floor consisted of the art and program room, the historical room, a staff workroom, a kitchen, and a large storage area (which two years later became the children's room). The contemporary design of the new building achieved a feeling of openness with the use of skylights, an open stairway between the two floors, and a two-story window wall in the rear lobby. Interior space had been increased from 3,662 square feet in the old library on North Finley Avenue to 15,000 square feet in the new library on South Maple Avenue. There were 42 parking spaces, versus none at the old site.

The Library's Fifth Home

On October 13, 1974, books were transferred from 12 Noon to 2 P.M. to the new library building, with the help of the Friends of the Library, Kiwanians, girl and boy scouts, school and municipal officials, students, and citizens of all ages in the township and from neighboring communities. Books were passed through a window and moved down to the street on a conveyor belt where helpers picked up cartons and carried them in their arms, on their heads, or in wagons or wheel barrows. Within two hours, volunteers moved 26,000 books and magazines and saved the library $4,000 in moving fees. Approximately 500 people participated in the transfer.

John Marrinan, chairman of the move, directed operations in the old library, with Mrs. Ryan attempting to see that books went in their proper places at the new library. By 2 P.M. Jane D. Steinkopf, president of the Board of Trustees, announced the move was completed and thanked everybody. Bishop Janes Methodist Church Young People's Group provided refreshments. Industrial mover, Randy Krogell of West Millington volunteered and transported heavy sets of volumes and furniture. H.F. Drnec of Basking Ridge, an official of the Container Corporation of America in New Brunswick, donated 800 cartons to hold the books.

This truly was a living "book brigade," which generated so much interest that The New York Times of October 13, 1974 featured an article about the event. The library was closed October 5-20 and reopened for its dedication and Open House on October 20, 1974. Speakers at the ceremonies were Helen R. Mallon, Building Committee Chairman; Jane D. Steinkopf, Board of Trustees President; and Robert O'Neill, Bernards Township Mayor, in addition to other dignitaries.

The first artist to be exhibited in the new Art and Program Room was the late Charles Forbes of Basking Ridge, an advertising executive whose lifelong hobby was painting. This marked the beginning of an appealing series featuring work by area artists.

The new library's staff, under Director Anne C. Ryan, consisted of Gail Arnold, Florence Bedell, Barbara Kramer, Jane Lytle and Harriet Ryder. The annual budget at that time was $147,057.

Another referendum was approved by voters the following year, permitting withdrawal from the Somerset County Library system to establish an independent municipal library. The final tally of the November 4, 1976 election referendum was: 3,470 in favor of a municipal library, with 1,824 against. The following list identified the advantages of becoming a municipal library:

1. Mandatory municipal financial support as established by State law.
2. Library board would be relieved of the constant burden of fund raising.
3. Municipal library shares the Township's favorable borrowing rate.
4. Savings through the use of the Township's insurance, maintenance and engineering services.
5. Moneys formerly paid to the Somerset County Library would be spent for the local library.
6. Taxpayers would feel there was more control over their money.
7. A compact seven-member governing body, as prescribed by State law.
8. There would be better cooperation between schools and school libraries with a municipal library.

The former library building at 2 North Finley Avenue was purchased by the Oldest House Preservation Company, comprised of three local businesswomen, Neely Applegate, Mary Kenny and Sheila Walsh. They later sold it to an attorney, Arthur G. D'Alessandro, who secured a variance for a law office.

The new building was a catalyst to increase and diversify services in the 1970s into the 1980s. Reciprocal borrowing and regional resource sharing provided library users with plentiful materials beyond the local collection. Bernards Township and Bernardsville Libraries had had a reciprocal borrowing agreement to aid readers since the 1960s. More networking, which linked greater numbers of libraries in the coming years, produced an increased wealth of quickly available resources. Delivery of materials from library to library by truck began with three days per week service and grew to five day delivery.

The Leisure Learning series (originally Leisure Learning for Dynamic Living, or LLDL) was designed for men and women of retirement age when it was started in 1976 for residents of surrounding communities. Helen Ross Mallon was the founder of LLDL, who worked with a small core of volunteers to meet the social needs of the retired community. Using a classroom concept, spokesmen and community leaders from all fields, both active and retired professionals, served as speakers. Complementing the series, numerous instructors from area colleges became regular program contributors. The 16 week low-cost series (eight weeks each in the spring and fall) drew increasing numbers of participants over the years, attracting people from such distant communities as Westfield, Livingston, Summit, and Hackensack.

Leisure Learning began in the new Maple Avenue library, but soon outgrew the space, and arrangements were made by Mrs. Mallon with the Presbyterian and the Methodist Churches to use their building facilities each week, in addition to the library's Art and Program Room. This program partnership with the two churches has strengthened over the years.

In 1978 the Bernards Township Library became a member of the Morris-Union Federation of Libraries (MUF) which included Berkeley Heights, Bernards, the Chathams, Madison, Morristown/Morris Township, New Providence and Summit. Library patrons requested materials to be sent from other member libraries, or used their 'home' library card in person at the other member libraries. There were over 700,000 volumes available in the Morris-Union Federation, and each MUF library maintained a subject specialty. Theater and Performing Arts formed Bernards Township Library's specialty. Notable reference sources available included The Motion Picture Guide, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, The New York Times Film Reviews (1913 - 1988) and The New York Times Theater Reviews (1920 - 1988). Mrs. Ryan directed the development of an improved reference collection, and in 1981 hired the library's first professional reference librarian, Susan Tegge.

The History Room offers the researcher, historian, genealogist and student boundless information and resources.

Upon the retirement of Mrs. Ryan in 1984, Margaret C. Jiuliano of North Plainfield, former director of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library of Carnegie, Pennsylvania, was appointed fifth library director, to serve in the fifth location of the library. Mrs. Ryan had played a major part in construction of the South Maple Avenue facility, and initiated many new programs. The Friends of the Library sponsored a farewell event in her honor, and also presented a painting to the library in her name.

Continuing the innovative programs offered at the Bernards Township Library was a free delivery service to homebound residents to supply them with books and other library materials. Recorded versions of books on cassette tape and an expanded large print book collection grew in popularity. Trained volunteers assisted patrons each winter with their Federal and State income tax papers, a service known as VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance).

Children's programs throughout the year included films, storytelling, small theater productions by the Trilogy Theater of Basking Ridge, guest speakers, musical programs and craft workshops. The summer reading program offered activities to children ranging in age from two and a half to twelve.

There were various book lectures for adults held in the Art and Program Room each year. Informational programs included such topics as radon awareness, time management, and computer basics.

The Northwest Regional Library Cooperative (Region 1 of six in the New Jersey Library Network) founded in 1986 with Bernards Township Library as a charter member, provided a daily delivery service, making library resources available from over 2,000 Statewide regional library members. "NUCILS," the Region 1 compact disk electronic database of member library holdings, opened up 105 libraries and their 2.9 million volumes to library users in the five County system, comprised of Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Sussex and Warren counties.

Mrs. Gibson died in April, 1987, following a long illness.

An on-line catalog OPAC had been used in the building by the staff and public since May, 1990. Automation efforts had begun as early as the mid 1980s with the original system up and running in 1986. In July 1993 the library's on-line automated card catalog was made available to patrons from their homes or offices equipped with a modem and basic communications software.

In addition, in the early 1990s many CD-ROM resources were made available to the public at computer workstations on the upper level of the library. Information delivered via the assorted CD-ROM subscriptions included Infotrac Magazine Index ASAP; UMI Proquest; and Dun's Million Dollar Disc.

A skilled staff of trained professionals and paraprofessionals assisted library users in the 1990s. The Reference Department was comprised of three full-time librarians, and the Children's Department was directed by its first full-time librarian. Harriet Ryder, the first part-time children's librarian, retired in 1991 after 26 years of service.

On April 20, 1990 the Maple Avenue School was memorialized by a group of graduates, their parents and friends, who gathered to install a plaque at the rear entrance of the library marking the site of the former school. The plaque was inscribed as follows: "Where many local residents began their education ... Presented by the Alumni, 1990."

Nearly thirty individuals contributed money to purchase the plaque, according to Helen Thomson Smith of Peapack-Gladstone, originating member of the ad-hoc committee which arranged for the event.

That afternoon the plaque was presented to the Library Director Margaret C. Jiuliano by Mrs. Smith and Doris Berman Hankinson. Mayor Jerome E. Kienlen; Jack B. Twitchell, former Maple Avenue School Principal and local Superintendent; and June O. Kennedy, Township Historian took part in the program. A brief musical interlude was presented by the Bernards Chamber Ensemble under the direction of Priscilla Carswell Bruno, also a graduate of Maple Avenue School.

Other members of the committee were James and Ruth Thomson of Peapack-Gladstone; Edward Bailey of Bedminster; Jack Hankinson of Basking Ridge; Tony and Ethel Rummo of Vincentown.

In addition to the plaque, an enlarged photograph of the entire Maple Avenue School student body taken in 1924 and a framed collage of three different historic views of the school were hung in the library's lower lobby. The group photograph, formerly owned by Minnie Tewes Corbin, was donated by Elinor Hancock.

The two original parking lots, which offered only 39 spaces were increased in 1991. The Charles Pitt house and property facing onto Lindbergh Lane, adjacent to the library's land, were purchased by the Township for the sole purpose of adding parking facilities to the already overcrowded lots. After the Pitt house was removed, the grounds excavated, surfaced, and the area planted with trees and shrubs, an additional twenty six parking slots were created. At the same time the older lots were repaired and resurfaced, new lines were painted and three spaces for disabled patrons were added, bringing the new total to 70 parking designations. Improved lighting was installed for patrons and staff.

In 1991, the library was forced to cut its Sunday service because of a budget reduction. Borrowers and residents sent petitions to the Township Committee, which reversed the closing and reopened the library on Sundays in early 1992.

The landmark Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), often referred to as the most comprehensive civil rights legislation since the 1960s, was phased in during the early to mid 1990s. The Bernards Township Library Board of Trustees, the Director and staff looked upon this as an opportunity to critique the facility and its adequacy to serve all individuals regardless of physical limitations. The Board adopted a policy to "make...services, facilities, programs and accommodations accessible to all citizens...including those who have disabilities." Toward this goal, the Director and a Township Engineering Aide/Inspector compiled a comprehensive checklist of structural shortcomings and recommended modifications to be achieved during the ADA transition period.

The Board reviewed the list of recommendations and adopted a Transition Plan in June, 1992 to establish a strategy and time table for implementation of various changes with numerous modifications already underway.

Other building changes were made quickly and efficiently to assist library users, including: conveniently arranged parking spaces for disabled people, an OPAC multi-user computer workstation with one sit-down station built as wheelchair accessible. A magnifying device was added to that same computer terminal as well as enlarged letters on the accompanying keypad to assist the visually impaired. With suggestions gleaned from a mail-in survey, additional large type books and audio book tapes were purchased.

In 1993, responding to patron feedback as well as the ADA, a set of automatic doors powered by interior and exterior push plates was installed at the rear entrance. Several large-scale, costly renovations, such as an elevator and more accessible restrooms (to meet the current ADA standards) were delayed and incorporated into building expansion plans generated in 1994.

The Bernards Township Public Library, in its 96th year, is open 60 hours a week, including weekday evenings and weekends. The annual circulation is 186,000, and the library owns 91,500 volumes. There is a staff of 26 full-time and part-time employees, in addition to a corps of dedicated volunteers. The 1994 annual budget amounts to $947,600. As it nears its centennial year, the library has achieved total community involvement with its professionalism and dedicated service to the public. The Bernards Township Library is among the community's most valuable assets. Throughout its history, residents have fostered its purpose, supported its needs and thrived from using the volumes it has owned. The adage, "You can tell a book by its cover," can surely be adapted to: "You can tell a township by its library."

Excellence is an apt description of the Bernards Township Library