History of the Library (Page 4)

The Dunham Years

On April 12, 1932, Miss Barkalow, librarian since 1898, retired because of illness. She had served faithfully for 34 years. The trustees voted to invite Margaret Bergen Dunham of Basking Ridge, assistant to Miss Barkalow, to accept the position. Miss Dunham, a graduate of Northfield Seminary, East Northfield, MA, was a former teacher and also had worked in the loan library of the Madison Stationery Store, Montclair. She accepted the position.

Miss Dunham's arrival in 1932 found book circulation extremely low, with no catalog and few new books. The reference and children's sections were poor. The librarian's salary was low and the Depression was beginning to make itself felt in the small community.

In May, the Hunterdon-Somerset Library Association held its spring meeting in Basking Ridge, with a luncheon in the basement of the Presbyterian Church Chapel, after which they visited the recently completed Veterans Administration Hospital Library at Lyons.

In 1932, orders were placed with two familiar, contemporary library suppliers, Gaylord Brothers and A.H. Roemer. Dorothy Van Gorder of the Somerset County Library spent a day in Basking Ridge helping to classify books and to develop the catalog.

Mary B. Barkalow, founding librarian, died in September, 1932, following an illness of seven months. In her will, filed October 6, 1932, she left $2,000 to the Basking Ridge Library.

Throughout the years, the Garden Club planted tulips, a dogwood tree, and tended to the ornamental plantings of the library. The Club had a table with gardening information for borrowers, providing a member to staff it. This group, with the Visiting Nurse Association and the Girl Reserves, held meetings at the library.

Housekeeping was a major task of the trustees. They assumed responsibility for the upstairs apartments. At times, renters were in arrears. However, the rents were income needed to make repairs. In addition, the Basking Ridge Historical Society, in return for the use of the library to store relics, painted sidewalls and woodwork, laid linoleum and provided its own bookcase. Trustees hired people to paint, trim hedges, and do these needed repairs.

Coal was delivered successfully to the library in 1934, although the trucks were no longer allowed to use the driveway of the Junior Order, United American Mechanics Lodge. One time the shipment was eight tons. This lodge was the neighboring building, and is today's Brick Academy.

Miss Dunham, enthusiastic and persistent, solved the problem of discipline through perseverance. New books were added very gradually. The Somerset County Library service was used to the utmost and eventually 100 books a day were circulated.

Residents purchased inexpensive volumes of children's books to increase the collection. Since the British were more proficient in writing children's books than Americans in the 1930s, Norman Hankinson bought an armload of such volumes in Port of Spain, Trinidad, that were standard fare for English children and donated them to the Basking Ridge Library.

There were few choice books in 1934, but this soon was remedied with new residents. Requests were made for reading materials in banking, business, finance, career-oriented books, and for new home owners, gardening, interior decorating, education and the arts.

The library served largely as a private one. Circulation increased with the development of large housing tracts. People came from Rankin Avenue, Berta Place and Alward Avenue. There was improved financial support and a change in the type of material in demand. Suddenly, the library became a thriving service and an integral part of the community, gaining its vitality from the enthusiasm of Miss Dunham.

In 1935 the Association voted on the library apartments' rent: $25 per month in summer and $30 per month in winter. From 1935, the Township Committee began contributing to the library, with yearly amounts of $500. The library was supported by donations and members' dues until the mid 1930s when the municipality offered to appropriate funds for library service (1935). The Board of Education also joined in the practice, with $100 a year. Both these donor groups increased their amounts in subsequent years. The librarian's salary was increased to $10 more per month.

During the Depression there was a mild impact in Bernards Township. In 1935 there were 29 families and 138 individuals receiving Emergency Relief, approximately every month. Cost per family was $19.98, and per person, $4.18. The State paid $435.43 and the Township $141 for an average monthly charge of $576.43.

Prices of household purchases in the mid 1930s were: eggs, 25¢ per dozen; oranges, 39¢ per dozen; leg of lamb or chuck roast, 23¢ per pound. In 1937 "Pennies from Heaven" starring Bing Crosby was the movie playing at the Bernardsville theater. Prosperity was "just around the corner." Housing tracts were being developed off Lake Road (Holmes farm area), and Culberson Road homes were under construction. Women's shoes (Polly Preston's) were $4-$5 per pair; young men's white flannel graduation suits were $10.95, or $3.99 for a pair of white flannel trousers; girls' blouses were 89¢ each and gym shorts, 49¢ in the Morristown stores.

In the midst of the Depression, an ad was placed in the Bernardsville News, announcing elimination of Wednesday evening and Saturday afternoon library hours, as an effort to cut costs. By 1936 annual book circulation was 13,229. New book purchases totaled $142.84.

Mrs. Samuel S. Childs died in 1937; the trustees wished to procure a picture of her to accompany that of Mr. Childs in the library.

Housekeeping matters and cost-cutting measures continued to occupy the trustees. Since coal was no longer used for heating with the installation of an oil burner in 1938 (oil cost was 5½¢ per gallon), the trustees wondered if they could get an additional 2% discount for cash.

In February, 1939, trustees expressed concern about books borrowed from the library and in the possession of persons who themselves or family members had scarlet fever or communicable diseases. With a need to protect subscribers, a letter was sent to Robert Gutleber, registrar of vital statistics for Bernards Township, to advise the librarian of any communicable diseases in the Township.

In response to community growth, the trustees voted to increase the board to 24 members and added four more committees: House, Finance, Book, Social and Auditing, and invited new residents to take advantage of the library's facilities.

Contributions to the library were many, and organizations held benefits. The Women's Club of Bernardsville and the Kiwanis Club conducted fund raising campaigns. Donations included chairs, a radio phonograph and records. Cash gifts were received from the Rotary Club, P.T.A. and Camp Fire Girls. By 1940, the library's additions included fluorescent lights and new window shades.

Miss Barkalow's will, probated February, 1935, provided funds for an investment. Trustees opted for a first mortgage on local real estate and also purchased two $500 savings bonds in 1941. The Phebe Conklin Memorial Fund of $6,000, invested with Fidelity Union Bank and Trust Company of Newark, was terminated by Mr. Conklin in 1942; trustees purchased Series G. War Bonds.

During World War II, a bulletin was placed in the library listing churches and times of services in the community. Miss Dunham's contribution to the library was being felt. By 1945, there were 15,000 books on the shelves. Mention of her in minutes of the Association quote, "Miss Dunham gives so much extra time. The tireless efforts of the librarian are credited to the library's success and usefulness to the community." Miss Dunham was granted a salary of $75 per month, a $100 bonus, two weeks vacation, six days of sick leave, and a substitute who was to be paid $1.50 per day.

In 1946 the local Community Chest approached the library trustees about the library becoming a recipient. Concerned this might jeopardize the annual appropriation by the Township Committee, they declined. The Township was, in fact, requested to increase its amount, which became $800. The trustees agonized about continuing to rent an upstairs apartment, for this space was desperately needed for library services. However, so was the rental money, and additional paid staff was needed for Miss Dunham.

The Historical Society's artifacts, which occupied much space, were removed, allowing for additional shelving. Eleanor Rickey was hired to serve during Miss Dunham's vacation, whose salary had increased to $100 a month. In the early 1940s, Miss Dunham, needing help, asked a frequent patron and friend, Eleanor Rickey, during a library visit, if she could assist her. Mrs. Rickey, a Township resident since 1924, was hired by the Board of Trustees as a part time worker -- this casual request of Miss Dunham's, competently filled, lasted until both retired in 1963.

At last, in 1947, a telephone was installed in the library, and additional chairs were donated by E. Haas Gallaway Sr., in 1948.

In 1949 a tri-folded brochure was circulated to borrowers as the library's annual report. It set forth activities and services, and stated that circulation was 21,340. By 1950, additional space was needed for books in the main room. The Township Committee increased its donation to $1,000 and Miss Dunham's salary was now at $125 a month, with $150 a year allocated for additional help.

Circulation climbed to 24,084 in 1951. Social Security amounts were deducted from checks of the librarian and her assistant for the first time. A spate of fund raisers helped to support the library. A bonnet sale was held by the Long Hill Community Club. Fund drives were run by the PTA and women's groups, as well as food sales in the library. Trustees even bought an Irish Sweepstakes ticket, winning $55, which helped to buy library furniture in 1959.

Tax Support Investigated

In 1951 Miss Dunham met with Janet Z. McKinlay of the State Library Division of the New Jersey Department of Education about changing the library's financial base from that of a private library supported by donations to a public entity funded by the local government with an appropriation of tax dollars. Miss Dunham learned that a municipality must annually raise, by taxation, a sum equal to 1/3 of a mil (.000333) on every dollar of assessable property within the municipality. During that same period the trustees attended a meeting in Flemington and heard it was proper to spend as much as 75% of the budget for staff -- at the time Basking Ridge's proportion was only 50%. It was noted that the minimum sum considered necessary to measure adequate library service was $1.50 per resident.

In 1953, trustees vowed to give the people of Bernards Township the best possible service. They recommended the book committee study what was on the shelves and discard where advisable.

The budget in 1954 totaled $4,663.00, with income listed as $1,500 from the Township Committee. The annual fund drive netted $1,040.50, with the remaining funds coming from a combination of apartment rent (at $75 per month), fines, American News Company dividends, interest in U.S. Bonds, a Board of Education donation, and a cake sale earning $200. Two years later, the budget totaled $5,469.00, including the Township's appropriation of $2,000, with the librarian's salary at $2,400 and her assistant at $1.50 per hour. Miss Dunham's salary had been $2,200 in 1953; it increased to $2,300 in 1954 , $2,400 in 1956, and $2,700 in 1957. Cataloguers were paid $2 per hour, with assistants still at $1.50 per hour in 1957. Fines were assessed at 2¢ per day.

In the 1950s private contributions continued to be received. Organizations which sent money included the Somerset Hills branch of the American Association of University Women; Bernardsville Rotary Club; the Bernardsville Business and Professional Women; and Lackawanna Travelers, Inc., a member of the N.J. Theater League. Reading materials, including a magazine subscription from the Rotary Club and books about the Catholic Church and its teachings, were given by St. Elizabeth's Council, Knights of Columbus. In turn, the library supported other community needs. As an example, in 1955 the Presbyterian Church thanked the library's trustees for use of the building for Sunday School classes until the new church addition was completed.

Coverage of fire insurance policies in 1956 included $30,000 on the public library and apartment; $5,000 on library contents and extended coverage, and $50,000 for public liability. Apartment rent was now $75 per month.

By 1957, the Board of Education increased its contribution to $250, from the previous $100. Mrs. Rickey became Miss Dunham's full-time assistant. Hours were daily from 3 to 5 P.M., and 7 to 9 P.M., except on Wednesdays. There were no hours on Saturdays. In addition to standard services, the library featured a children's room as well as a reading and reference room with newspapers and magazines. Special help was given on occasion to high school students, elementary school teachers, local church groups, mothers' discussion groups, girl and boy scouts, bird watchers, women's clubs and garden clubs. Also featured were Children's Book Week, National Dog Week, and other special and seasonal events.

A self-perpetuating board of 24 trustees governed the library.

By 1956 circulation was 25,000 volumes per year. In that same year it was estimated that the cost was 20¢ for each and every book loaned, with 25% of the total budget for books and periodicals, a high proportion compared to the regional average.

For her 25th anniversary in 1957, Miss Dunham was presented with a gold watch. (This is now the property of Mildred Dunham Van Dyke, her niece.)

The Friends Organize

On February 7, 1957, the Friends of the Library was formed to help organize community support, raise funds and stimulate interest in reading and use of the library facilities. The Friends of the Library asked to be known as the sole fund raising agency of the library. They saw their role as conducting a yearly fund drive, obtaining speakers and sending newsletters. They manned a booth at the annual Kiwanis Fair and collaborated with Welcome Wagon to publicize the library. Used book sales, a door-to-door solicitation and lecture series on literary subjects brought the Basking Ridge Library to everyone's attention.

The matter of repairs and renovations became the major concern in 1959. Carpentry, heating, electrical, plumbing, painting and redoing the upstairs apartment were needed improvements. Trustees voted to sell government bonds not to exceed $7,500 for these projects, which resulted in an increase of the library's usable space by almost one third, with various rooms and book shelves rearranged. At this time circulation reached 30,981 and books owned were 15,000. The Township Committee's contribution to the library was $1,500 while the Board of Education added $300. In this same year, the Friends made their initial contribution to the trustees in the amount of $1,400 while apartment rent was contributing an additional $85 a month.

In 1958 Miss Dunham assembled books for borrowers, suitable for Lenten reading. Rental books were 5¢ a day.

The 1959 budget of $8,020 included funds for longer hours or to reschedule for Saturdays.

Since the Basking Ridge Library was part of the Somerset County Library system, the Somerset County Library made a permanent loan of books valued at $200 which included The World Book. Trustees commented that $8,000 a year went directly to support the Somerset County Library system. A committee was appointed to investigate facts and legal aspects of changing the library into an independent municipal one. Members included: Eleanor Braunmuller, Beverley V. Meigs, Donald K. Richards and William Rowe.

Township population was 6,900 and taxes paid to the County, $8,306.52 in 1960. If the Basking Ridge Library left the County system, the trustees listed these considerations:
1. Somerset County aid to schools would stop.
2. Somerset County planned to lend 1,000 volumes to the new high school.
3. There must be a public referendum on the question.
4. The library automatically would be out of the County system by law, but may be included again with payment of the County tax.
5. The public library municipal tax is 1/3 mil, based on $1.00 assessed valuation.
6. Somerset County loaned 4,370 volumes to the schools and 539 to the library.

By 1961 they decided to table the matter of a municipal library, because by leaving the County system, the Board of Education's new high school plans would be jeopardized. Rather, they opted to request $7,500 from the Township Committee. In celebration of National Library Week, 750 Bernards Township school children visited the library and all received book marks.

In 1960, revenues were derived from apartment rent, donations from the municipality, school board, and Friends of the Library; fines, and interest on U.S. Savings Bonds. Almost half the books circulated were from the children's room. By 1961, the budget was $9,645 with Miss Dunham receiving a salary of $3,200 a year.

Gifts continued during the 1960s. The Bernards Township Kiwanis gave eight chairs and two tables for the children's room, and half of the profits of their plays. The Millington Women's Club purchased new valances for the windows. A new nine foot birch twin circulation desk was a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Nelson W. McCombs. Mrs. R.M. Loyer gave six oak chairs for the upstairs room. A kitchen was donated in memory of Sarah Byrd Askew of the N.J. State Commission of Public Libraries, organizer of the Commission, who served as its librarian, secretary, reference librarian, and was president of the N.J. Library Association, who died in 1942.

The Library Association, in an extraordinary move, passed a resolution in 1961 against the proposed jet port in Morris County or in any other contiguous County. This proposed airport, fifth for New Jersey, would cover 10,000 acres and cost $220 million. The Great Swamp encircled New Vernon, Green Village, Chatham, Meyersville, Passaic Township (now called Long Hill Township), and Basking Ridge. Green Village would be the intersection of two runways; New Vernon would be cut in half down its Main Street; Meyersville and possibly Hickory Tree (Chatham Township) would also be affected. About 700 homes, several churches, schools and businesses would disappear in Harding, Chatham and Passaic Townships in Morris County.

The Great Swamp has been described as an amalgam of woodlands, wetlands and meadows of northern New Jersey -- a magnificent sanctuary of wildlife, a vital watershed and a wilderness area for almost 500,000 people who enjoy its beauty and tranquillity each year. Basking Ridge Library Trustees sent their resolution to the State Legislature, unanimously expressing their opposition to a jetport in Morris or any contiguous County, as set forth in Senate Resolution #3, passed January 18, 1960, urging the Senate to support the resolution. They cited the global jet air terminal as a hazard to public health and safety, causing untoward depreciation of residential property.

The Great Swamp Committee eventually became the North Jersey Conservation Foundation. In 1968, the Great Swamp was the first Federal wilderness area in New Jersey and the first one in the country under the direct administration of the U.S. Department of the Interior; it is also the first national natural landmark in the State.

Trustees manned the N.J. State 300th Anniversary History-mobile at the Kiwanis Fair, September 1, 1962.

As book circulation continued to rise, the problem of space became more critical. Trustees decided to rent only one apartment and take over the second, remove a closet, and gain some space. These alterations cost $937. Contributions covered $615 of the expense, leaving $322 to be raised. At the same time, updated operating procedures were adopted which included adding the Gaylord Charging System in 1962, at a cost of $175 for installation and $50 per year rental fee.

In 1963, Somerset County Library proposed a Somerset Hills Library Association, under the aegis of the County. Basking Ridge trustees voted to approve the plan in principle, its constitution and by-laws, and agreed to explore the possibility with the Bernardsville Library, using the services of Schuyler Mott, their librarian. The proposal would have retained small municipal libraries in each town for convenience, but a new central building with spacious facilities at a mutually accepted location would have been built in the future. Library cards would be honored at all participating libraries. There would be no duplication of books, providing more shelf space for books that the County Library would give free. In addition, this arrangement would spread the burden of cost for trained and competent personnel. Favorable reaction was received from the Bedminster-Far Hills Library and Peapack-Gladstone Library. The trustees of the two larger library boards could not reach a definite agreement, and the concept of a Somerset Hills Library was dropped.