History of the Library


Bernards Township is a unique community with citizens of long residence and longer memories. Their recollections inspire an author to produce a polished book worthy of the resources.

The early dedicated library pioneers left behind volumes of minutes, at times so detailed as to reveal true book lovers, community movers and shakers. We all are recipients of their tireless efforts.

I wish to express my sincere appreciation to Mildred Dunham Van Dyke for her superb reporting of the tenure of Librarian Margaret Bergen Dunham, her aunt. Eleanor B. Rickey contributed additional information. It was a privilege to consult with Anne C. Ryan, former library director.

Many thanks for the technical assistance of Sandra Salvo in putting my words into format style and Tim Atkins for his graphic design expertise. These talents are noteworthy.

Library Director Margaret C. Jiuliano inspired me to further seek facts, clarify ideas and give the residents of Bernards Township an accurate history of their distinguished library.

Without the generosity of the Friends of the Bernards Township Library, this book would not have been possible.

May readers enjoy this history of the library in Basking Ridge, courtesy of a century of spirited people.

June O. Kennedy


From the mid-18th Century, residents of the Basking Ridge area sought the pleasure of reading. Although most books were imported and of a scholarly nature, the thirst for knowledge was fostered by local clergy and private school educators. Women formed small literary groups, and when eight determined citizens applied for incorporation papers, the Basking Ridge Free Public Circulating Library Association became a reality on May 21, 1898. Their desire for a free public library reads like a romance; their legacy is the library in Basking Ridge.

"Libraries are not made; they grow."

Augustine Birrell, 1850-1933

English writer


Libraries are an integral part of every community. They are the repositories for the humanities, sciences and business and offer services to borrowers of all ages.

Bernards Township was created by charter in 1760 by King George II of England. It's earliest library activities began about the same time, during the term of the Rev. Samuel Kennedy, fourth pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Basking Ridge.

History books referred to the area as "The Ridge," the cultural center for the surrounding villages and hamlets. More than two centuries since its creation, Bernards continues the tradition of dedicated library service.

The names of the gallant library founders and early volunteers are reflected in the streets, roads and buildings of the community. Fortunately, many of today's citizens are their descendants. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the people who had a dream and fulfilled it for us.