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
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.
The Early Years
The Bernards Township Library probably began sometime between the years 1751 and 1787, during the pastorate of the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kennedy, fourth minister of the Presbyterian Church in Basking Ridge. In those times, when Basking Ridge was the center of social, religious and educational life for the whole area, the church owned and loaned most of the books available to the community. Although the accounts are fragmentary and much is left to speculation, it is recorded that Dr. Kennedy lent his own books to his parishioners. Undoubtedly, this collection developed into a Sunday School library and eventually, a general library evolved. *
A little later, each of about 15 people donated a book. A list of names was compiled telling when and to whom the book should be handed on. Each of the borrowers could keep the book two weeks and when all had been exchanged and read, the book was returned to the donor. This arrangement was called the Basking Ridge Circulating Library.
Somerset County Court House records reveal that on March 18, 1809, five stockholders of the Basking Ridge Library Company applied for incorporation. The goal was to establish a general library to serve a wider radius of the surrounding countryside. It is unknown if this was a public or private enterprise. Founders were: John M. Simpson, John Ayers, J.G. Cooper, Solomon Doughty and Alexander Finley, brother of Dr. Robert Finley, director of the Basking Ridge Classical School.
The group had been lending books and pamphlets among themselves and had formed an association around that activity. It was based on the Junto Club of Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin's literary group.
*Note: Until 1760, the area was known as "Baskeridge/Baskenridge". King George II created Bernardston Township that year, in honor of Sir Francis Bernard, royal governor, 1758-1760, who left for a similar position in the Colony of Massachusetts.
First Philadelphia and then Trenton had formed library companies prior to the American Revolution. Books were a rare luxury in pre-Revolutionary times, frowned on by the colonial governors. Library companies were stock companies, subscribers required to pay a yearly subscription which granted permission to peruse the corporation's books in the library room. Some companies allowed subscribers to borrow books for a period of time, while non-subscribers were limited to the reading room.
The Library's First Home
Records have indicated that the Basking Ridge Library Company housed its collection at the School House, known as the Brick Academy, for it was these same men who funded construction of this building in 1809 who were the founders of the Basking Ridge Library Company. A paper researched by Mariana M. Gibson, library director in the 1960s, maintains the library company actively flourished through Dr. Finley's regime or until 1817, as stock was issued to Joel Dayton in 1811, and book purchases in the name of the company are on record in 1815. The library company is mentioned twice in land sales during this time. Also recorded is a building mortgage of $250, dated April 2, 1810, by the trustees of this corporation to the trustees of the Basking Ridge Congregation (Presbyterian Church). People from Vealtown (Bernardsville) who attended church in Basking Ridge borrowed books from this library.
In the founding year of 1809, Thomas Jefferson was in his last year as President, with James Madison succeeding him. Books of that time probably were cloth bound books, English imports -- liturgical in nature. When presses were available, inexpensive reprints by British writers ensued. Reading for enjoyment followed, but there were not many American authors to read.
There is an almost four decade gap in the Basking Ridge history of library activity, although some sort of book-associated lending practice probably prevailed during the mid-19th Century.
The Basking Ridge Free Public Library was organized April 8, 1884 and incorporated May 25, 1889. The Baskingridge Mutual Loan Library No. III (note spelling of village name) set forth its credo in 1884: Rule No. 1: As this book is the property of another, it must not be loaned to one not a member of the Association.
Rule No. 2: As the dates before the names are intended to regulate the exchange of books, so each book is due readers when the date before the name has arrived and each party is privileged to, and should then claim the book before the pre- vious reader (if not foreworded) read or unread.
Listed were two week time periods from May 24, 1884 through May 22, 1886, with 53 subscribers' names.
A library group met weekly at the home of the Misses Doty, 11 Main Street (South Finley Avenue), now the Prudential Brown-Fowler Agency, where the ladies of the village exchanged books amongst themselves.
After a span of 80 years (1809-1889), the Rev. John C. Rankin, pastor of the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church, called a meeting on July 8, 1889 to sound out the community sentiment for a public library. Although Dr. Rankin appointed a constitutional committee to formulate action towards this goal, it was almost nine years later that a certificate of incorporation was filed! Meanwhile, in 1889, trustees operated from the second floor of the Moffett Building at 22 East Henry Street, now Weichert Realtors. Books were brought to the room on a certain night and exchanged. Samuel A. Allen served as secretary for 50¢ a week. Years later, Allen received a gold pen in recognition of his services.
During the years of 1889 and 1891, the Basking Ridge Library Company had two ice cream festivals in the Presbyterian chapel, as fund raisers. Served were cake and boiled cream, which had been taken to Morristown for freezing. Trustees used some of these funds to order two bookcases, a paper punch, a rubber stamp, and four lamps for the library. To "fix up" the room, $35.80 was spent and a catalog was printed for each member in 1891. Membership was 25¢ per person.
The Library's Second Home
By 1893, with funds at a dangerous low, the library was relocated to the home of the Misses Mary and Elizabeth Barkalow at 31 Main Street (South Finley Avenue), offered rent free, where the sisters served as librarians, without pay; instead, they received membership tickets for their services. Their house was called "The Brick House," a handsome building with Victorian Gothic influence, which remained in the family until the 1930s.
There was a certain amount of business with summer people; hunting and fishing also brought lodgers to the area. The Washington House (now The Store Restaurant) and the Union Hotel, site of the present First Fidelity Bank, provided lodgings for traveling salesmen who arrived by rail and used livery stable horses and buggies to make their rounds in the locality.
Trustees voted in March, 1895, to allow summer boarders to borrow books for 10¢ per week. There were 34 catalogs printed for members and in July, postcards were sent to them requesting lists of books to be considered for purchase. Printed slips were placed in the catalogs with new offerings. The library did not prosper and the following year, there were 30 members with a mere 61¢ in the treasury.
Members' dues were still delinquent. Trustees voted 4-3 on January 29, 1898, to make the library free, if funds could be raised to support it. In April, they voted to have a charter drawn and on May 21, 1898, the Basking Ridge Free Public Circulating Library was organized. This was according to an act passed by the New Jersey Legislature on April 8, 1884, which provided for the establishment of free public circulating libraries.
1898 -- The Founding Year
Subscribers sworn before Judge Atwood L. DeCoster, Master in Chancery of New Jersey were: Dr. Rankin, Phebe Conklin, Samuel S. Childs, George Greulock, Elizabeth Henry, S. Ella DeCoster, Parmenas C. Henry and Mary B. Barkalow. The person who would be in charge was Miss Barkalow. She and her sister, Elizabeth, were appointed librarians at a salary of $1 per week each. Operation of the Basking Ridge Free Public Circulating Library began on June 1, 1898, with the remaining volumes of the original library company absorbed into stock. The present library's archives acknowledge 1898 as the true founding year.
The objective of the library was to provide free reading to the people of the village of Basking Ridge and vicinity by the establishment of a library, which should be open to the public, free of charge. (Judge DeCoster, who executed the charter, submitted his bill of $14: $10 for certificate of incorporation, $2 for recording fee and $2 for copy to the Secretary of State). Original officers were: Phebe Conklin, president; S. Ella DeCoster, first vice president; N. Morris Culberson, second vice president; Elizabeth Henry, secretary; Dr. John Rankin, treasurer.
Membership fees were: Associate, $2; Fellow, $5; Patron, $10; Life, donation to the Association of money, property or books to the value of $100 or by vote of trustees; Founder, donation to the Association of money, property or books to the value of $300 or by vote of trustees. The Association was governed by 18 trustees, who had the power to fill vacancies on their own for unexpired terms. The annual meeting of members was the second Tuesday in May, with the trustees meeting every second Tuesday of May, August, November and February or whenever necessary. Library and Finance, in addition to Auditing, were the two standing committees.
Duties of the Library and Finance Committee were to provide suitable accommodations for the safe keeping of books and other properties of the Association; to engage librarians and instruct them in their duties; to select and purchase books and other reading materials, to prepare catalogues, purchase stationery, arrange reports; to attend to payment of insurance and rent; to obtain funds for carrying out the object of the Association and to attend to all details pertaining to the library that might arise from time to time.
The first annual report of 1898 listed 139 book donors, with contributions totaling $67. The constitution of the Public Library Association was adopted in 1898.* Expenditures were $242.48 and
*Note: Revised in 1898, 1941, 1958, 1964 and amended in 1960, 1966, 1968 twice and 1971.
receipts, $277.30. The 1898 membership of less than 50 had grown to nearly 300 in a year, with 4,000 books circulated, the highest monthly average being 400. Of 262 new books added, almost half were donated. The librarians' salaries were posted at $104 for the year.
Member categories were: FOUNDER, Samuel S. Childs; PATRONS, Childs and his brother, William Childs, Mrs. A.W. Dennett, S. Conklin, Charles Roberts, Mrs. F. Nishwitz; LIFE, Frank Conklin, Samuel E. DeCoster; FELLOWS, Mr. and Mrs. Luther Childs, Mrs. S. Conklin, Phebe Conklin, N.M. Culberson, J.C. Culberson, S. Ella DeCoster, Joe Faulkner, George Greulock, P.C. Henry, William Van Dorn; ASSOCIATE, J.J. Allen, Mrs. A.C. Bockhoven, N. Bowers, Mrs. L.H. Bowers, Mr. and Mrs. Heman Childs, Henry Tobelman, Elizabeth Henry, Dr. F.C. Jones, Rachel Moore, Dr. Rankin, Dr. H.G. Whitnall, D. Van Liew.
In 1898 many of these trustees took turns serving as librarian until Miss Barkalow began work. To help pay the rent and buy books, a small monthly fee was charged for the use of the books.
The Library's Third Home
It was during this time that the library was moved next door to the Barkalows', an old house at 23 Main Street (South Finley Avenue), owned by Samuel S. Childs, site of the present Ridge Restaurant. This was the library's third home. Mr. Childs remodeled the building for use as a library, making a room with a small stage for community use and later adding two steel bowling alleys in the basement. He presented the Basking Ridge Free Circulating Library with two sets of pins and three balls for the alley, feeling that money could augment the thin coffers of the treasury. The alleys became a large part of the library's operation. Mr. Childs continued to supply the bowling pins and balls when necessary, and underwrote alley maintenance. Bowling alley fees were very welcome throughout these years. Entries in ledgers cite $82.02, $48.00, $36.80, $70.95 and $64.55.
When the library opened at its new address, books totaled 500. Franklin Conklin donated 75 new books. A clock and table were bought for the reading room. Within three months, there were 205 borrowers. Circulars had been distributed throughout the village promoting the library and its new location. Within a year, the trustees voted to continue as a free library.
New catalogs were issued at 10¢ each. At the start of 1900 volumes totaled 836 in cloth and 70 in paper. There was an oyster supper, concert, plate and spoon social, ice cream social and door-to-door canvas to raise funds. Later, a shredded wheat demonstration was held to benefit the library. Annual dues from members, donations, other entertainment and fines, supplemented the income.
In the first catalog of the Basking Ridge Free Circulating Library in 1900, more than 1,000 books were listed, three written by Horatio Alger, Jr. and 18 by William Shakespeare. Twelve years later, there were 36 books each by the same authors.
By 1903, there were 2,643 books owned. Basking Ridge residents continued to contribute books. In addition, the Bernardsville Library donated 57 that year, and there were others from the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Prominent residents contributed additional services, such as Dr. William Pennington, who repaired 125 books. Merchant P.C. Henry and school principal Willett Neer varnished chairs and woodwork. Samuel Childs, then a New Jersey State Senator, continued as benefactor extraordinaire. Childs was a partner with his brother, William, in the successful nationwide Childs Restaurant chain. (Samuel S. Childs and his wife, Emma Alward Childs, lived on their estate, Shannon Lodge, on Old Army Road, Bernardsville. This is the site of the Fellowship Deaconry Nursing Home. William Childs and his wife, Victoria, resided at Willmere Court, off Old Army Road in Basking Ridge.)
At a social in his home, February 3, 1903, William Childs suggested circulars be printed to send to people telling about the library, that it was free and how it was supported. He felt newcomers should be approached as new subscribers.
The salaries of each of the Misses Barkalow were increased around 1903 to $1.75 per week.
An historical talk, "Catherine Di Medici and the Astrologer," was given by Miss Mary A. Jacobs of New York City in 1904. The location was described in newspaper accounts as Library Hall. Could this have been the small stage area envisioned by Mr. Childs?
In 1906, 1,000 souvenir scenic postcards of Basking Ridge were ordered by Mary Barkalow and sold at Mr. Henry's store and in the library. These cards, printed in Germany, were very popular and contributed greatly to fund raising. In the first year, sales totaled $25. They are very collectable items today.
Trustees voted to place a box in the library room for contributions to defray expenses and also decided to send cards to those interested in the library, requesting a donation of $9 for the purchase of new books. This latter action was a new plan of personal subscription, rather than the revenue obtained from entertainment and bowling alley fees. With these contributions, the library was redecorated in 1906, with more bookcases added.
A strong friendship had developed between Mrs. Samuel Childs and the Barkalow sisters who in 1905 began construction of three new houses on the lots situated at the rear of the library.
In 1905 Mrs. Christopher Barkalow, mother of the librarians, died at age 88. Elizabeth Barkalow became bookkeeper in P.C. Henry's store and in 1908 was assistant postmaster in town. Therefore, whenever Mary Barkalow was unavailable to work in the library, i.e., vacation or other business, the library was closed. However, an item in the Basking Ridge notes of the Newark Evening News, June 16, 1909 states: "Miss Emma Collins will take charge of the Basking Ridge Free Library during the temporary absence of the librarian, Miss Mary Barkalow." (Miss Barkalow took several weeks vacation at Shelter Island Heights, New York.)
A life membership was offered to Mrs. Job L. Haas (nee Elizabeth Henry) a founding trustee, and teacher for 20 years in the public school, upon her removal to California in August, 1908.
Newspaper clippings in the scrapbooks of Dr. Pennington reveal the fund raising activities during the first decade of the library's operation. Some events, under the direction of the library's entertainment committee included: cake and bread sales, plays, comedies, a pound social (admission was a pound of something saleable), an operetta and instrumental music evening, given by the Mozart Club. Summer lawn sociables were given with readings of Tennyson and Longfellow at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ludwig Sutro. Chinese lanterns provided lighting for the evening. A stagecoach, hired at $2.50 for the night, would leave the Bernardsville station at 7 P.M. for Basking Ridge, and later return the guests. (Augustus Oliver was engaged as driver.) Other presentations were: a concert by the Rutgers College Glee Club; a play by the Physical Culture Class of Jessie Lyons, with tea served; concerts by the Choral Society, under the direction of Professor T. Williams Pearman; music and literary program by the Farewell Society; and an evening of entertainment with an elocutionist and vocalist.
The clippings further reveal that the library was the center of community life. There were so many organizations which met there in the early part of the 20th Century -- and for very important matters. The Fire Company convened in 1909 to discuss ways of procuring a new fire house. A mass meeting was held in 1907 to discuss Basking Ridge and Bernardsville applications to become separate boroughs. The Board of Health met in 1909 for a second reading of the new sanitary code of Bernards Township. Other groups using the building included: the Village Improvement Society; Physical Culture Class; Shakespeare Club; Choral Society; Botany Classes (only in summer); Field Hockey meetings; Board of Education; and St. Mark's Church, which held a Valentine social featuring stereopticon views of Italy. Clubs were granted use of the library rooms for a fee of $1 per evening with a 10 P.M. curfew.
The Library's Fourth Home
In the early 1900s, Samuel S. Childs received the deed to the session house/chapel, across the street from the Presbyterian Church, used for Sunday School and Friday evening prayer meetings. He had made a generous gift to the church, which resulted in construction of an hexagonal addition to the rear of its building. The chapel was no longer needed. This structure at the corner of Main and Church Streets (now North Finley Avenue and West Oak Street) had been built in 1887, replacing one built in 1854. Mr. Childs offered the use of the front room to the library.
Dedication of the Sunday School addition to the church was held July 3, 1908. In 1908-1909, Mr. Childs remodeled his building, the former chapel, adding a wing with its Main Street entrance adapted as a public library and reading room, and also adding a second story and porch. A large piazza extended along the north side, and the rear was arranged for a dwelling. The library occupied the building from the porch foreword, having a single room the width of the structure, long and narrow, and two stories high, with a balcony. The remainder of the building became a duplex apartment.
The work was completed in early 1909. The library had been closed evenings since its move to the new building, which was its fourth home. By June 16, the library was open afternoons and evenings. A new door mat, purchased for 65¢ from P.C. Henry's store, welcomed borrowers. Normal schedule resumed by mid-June, 1909, with afternoon and evening hours. The previous year, $30 had been allocated for additional books.
Basking Ridge residents and their friends again were generous to the library, determined that this cultural home be successful. There were continuous donations of books and periodicals. The Ladies Bowling Club contributed 27 volumes and also Rolfe's edition of Shakespeare's Works.
At times, contents of estates arrived. Among the gifts were history books, many multi-volume sets of 27 and 30, and also fiction.
Circulation was very healthy. It had grown from 2,438 in 1904, to 8,000 in 1910, with 668 books in the month of March alone. There were 2,500 books on the shelves, with 221 catalogued and 314 borrowers.
In 1910, Trustee Frederick Sutro announced that his father, Ludwig Sutro, offered to contribute $100 each year toward support of the library, on condition that four to five gentlemen would give another $100 yearly for the same purpose. The reasoning was that in addition to regular contributions from members, these additional funds would be sufficient to cover library operating costs. James E. Bathgate, Sr. and Frederick C. Sutro offered to donate the $100 each. Franklin Conklin, S.D. Conklin and Samuel Owen also joined. (Mr. Owen, a pharm- aceutical magnate, later built an English Tudor mansion, now the Township Hall of Bernards).
By 1910, the Association was out of debt. Miss Barkalow's salary was now $4.25 per week. Trustees voted to pay a substitute $6 to fill in during her two week vacation. Scenic souvenir postcards were selling well and adding to the treasury. New books were supplied by Baker and Taylor, a book wholesaler still in business today.
Also in 1910 the library opened an hour earlier, and shut at 7:30 P.M. in order to accommodate the Union Revival evening meetings held at both the Basking Ridge Presbyterian and Methodist Churches. The library remained closed every evening during the Week of Prayer in January from 1911-1914.
Around 1912, a room which the library had formerly occupied was turned into living rooms. In addition, the apartments upstairs were remodeled into a two family house. That same year the Basking Ridge Amusement Company opened a moving picture show in the old library building at 23 Main Street. (After 1912, Main Street was called Finley Avenue, and Church Street was renamed Oak Street).
Mr. and Mrs. Childs donated nine new bookcases in 1914 to accommodate additional books. That June, a small library was opened in the Presbyterian Chapel in Liberty Corner for the three summer months, with the Bernardsville Library loaning books. (This grew to a larger operation, as indicated in news items of 1925-26, when books were received from both Bernardsville and Trenton Libraries for Liberty Corner. Mrs. Charles Rompf and Madeline Koechlein supervised circulation of these borrowed books for that village. Conjecture is that probably the Koechlein General Store was where the books were housed and that Basking Ridge's library had no books to spare). In November, 1900, a "traveling library" was established in Liberty Corner, consisting of 50 books and kept in the community or six months, later to be rotated. This was in compliance with N.J. State laws, sending books wherever there was not a free circulating library. N.C.J. English was chosen as trustee of the library, with the Rev. Charles B. Condit of the Liberty Corner Presbyterian Church as librarian. Books were kept in the Presbyterian parsonage, the library open Tuesday from 4-5 P.M. and Saturday form 7-9 P.M. Books were loaned for two weeks, with a fine of one cent a day on all books not renewed. It is surmised that this kind of library had waned, with the concept surfacing in the mid-1920s.
The trustees borrowed $80 in 1915 to meet expenses and voted to raise Association membership subscriptions to $2 per year. The "Cent A Day Books" project netted rental fees of $31.92 in 1917.
The patriotic trustees helped organize canvassing Basking Ridge to raise funds for soldiers' libraries during World War I. The entire village of Basking Ridge, the Hill Section near Lyons, and Madisonville were solicited. In addition, 256 books and 415 magazines were collected and sent to Camps Dix and Hall.
By 1919, the library's collection had grown to 4,500 books. With all but three members paying dues, the trustees increased Miss Barkalow's salary to $1 per day.
Throughout the nation's "lean years," (World War I and the Depression) donations were somewhat smaller, but steady. To supplement the library's collection, a letter was sent to the State Library Association responding to the State's offer to loan 50 books of any choice for $2; children's books were selected. This was called a Traveling Library.
At their annual 1923 meeting, working on a close budget after expenses, the trustees had a balance of $6.22. Courtesy of Mr. Childs, the library was redecorated and other lighting fixtures relocated. A drop light was installed under the balcony. Fortunately, there were many life members who continued to support the library with yearly subscription fees. Many Township streets bear names of early library supporters: i.e., Allen, Blazier, Childs, Conklin, Craig, Culberson, Ellis, Henry, Monroe, Sutro, Turner, Voorhees. It was recorded that during this time, Mrs. Childs donated 15 magazine subscriptions, and to assist children with studies, 13 used books were purchased..
During these years of belt-tightening, there were plays, a bread and cake sale, food table, motion picture party, a concert and a new subscription drive for members in the 1920s.
A policy of not lending papers or periodicals until the most recent issue was received was adopted in 1924. After studying the standardized list of children's books, 20 volumes were bought for $30.
A description of the Basking Ridge Free Circulating Library in the early 1920s appeared in the January 9, 1964 issue of the Bernardsville News:
[The library was] "a very single high-ceilinged room, now a sort of foyer in 1964, and a library in the Victorian tradition, with dark wainscoting in the library and two flanking smaller rooms -- the left one, the librarian's office, and the right one, a small cubbyhole crowded with magazines. Everything, the bookcases, stairway, balcony railing, desk, reading table and chairs, were all varnished dark brown. Windows were large sheets of heavy opalescent glass on the balcony level. The heavy air was from the acrid smell of well-aged high quality paper.
"There was an eight-day wind-up clock which hung from a single nail on the balcony railing. This banjo-shaped pendulum timepiece gained or lost time, according to its tilt.
"Miss Barkalow was an old lady, her advanced years matched the decline of the library. As new books became fewer and fewer, so did visitors at the end of the 1920s. She will be remembered as a slightly stooped figure, with impaired hearing, spectrally sitting without comprehension in the sterile and musty science of bare new rooms."
Samuel S. Childs, major library supporter, died in 1925.
Mrs. Childs Continues the Legacy
In 1929, Mrs. Childs began remodeling the library building. On August 5, 1930, a dedication was held in conjunction with reopening the renovated library, a gift of Mrs. Emma F. Childs of Chatham -- the project in memory of her husband, the Honorable Samuel S. Childs. The benefactress told of his wishes, and the type of building he had envisioned, intimating she would be turning the library over to the trustees. Fred C. Sutro, principal speaker, related the history of the library since its inception May 25, 1898 and eulogized Mr. Childs. The Rev. Lauren G. Bennett, pastor of the Presbyterian Church, praised Mrs. Childs, thanking her for her "splendid gift to the community." Lillian Welch, president of the Board of Trustees, presided over the ceremonies and introduced many former trustees, including Annie Bishop, one of the earliest. Refreshments were elegant and plentiful, with a ledger entry of $3.33 for expenses.
A month later, on September 4, Mrs. Childs presented the property deed to the trustees. The entire first floor was for library purposes, its shelves well stocked with books and literature of the finest for young and old. On the main floor, four rooms had new linoleum laid, with an additional room for conferences and meetings, and an up-to-date newly built kitchen. In addition, the building received a new brick facing. The new kitchen was immediately pressed into use on Tuesday afternoons, starting September 25, for mothers and nurses to weigh babies.
In their letter of appreciation to Mrs. Childs for her gift, the trustees wrote of "a new era of usefulness," and that the library will enlist more hearty and generous support from citizens in the community, as a tribute to the "character, nobility and usefulness of Mr. Childs' life."
On September 15, Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Conklin placed at the disposal of the trustees an endowment fund of $6,000 -- the income from which would accrue for the library to purchase books. This was a memorial, the Phebe Conklin Endowment Fund, to honor the first president of the Association, 1902-1919, Phebe Conklin . (There are two bronze tablets in the History Room of the present library, honoring both the Childs and Conklin donations).
By the end of 1930, the Basking Ridge Library Association was "out of the red," with income from rent, books rentals, subscriptions, sale of postcards, fines and a variety of entertainments. A private dinner party, with an additional donation, funded two tables and 12 chairs in the children's room. At the annual Association meeting, a budget of $1500 was presented: $360 for librarian, $200 for assistant; $240, janitor; $50, insurance; $75, repairs; $300, new books; $275, utilities. A note attached said: "Is not this budget modest and entirely justified by the contribution the library has made and will make to our community?"
Miss Barkalow ordered picture postcards of the Old Oak Tree which were sold in the library and at Mr. Henry's store.
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.
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
A Brief History of 2 North Finley Avenue, Basking Ridge, NJ,written by June O. Kennedy, 1991.
A History of the Bernards Township Library, by Library Staff, August, 1988.
Among the Blue Hills...Bernardsville, NJ, by Bernardsville History Book Committee, Chapter 10, The Library.
Archives of the Historical Society of the Somerset Hills, Bernardsville News.
Catalogue of the Basking Ridge Free Circulating Library, 1900.
Catalogue of the Basking Ridge Free Circulating Library, 1912.
Eleanor B. Rickey
Anne C. Ryan
Mildred Dunham Van Dyke
Copy from Somerset County Court House, March 4, 1930 -- Document of March 18, 1809.
First Annual Report of the Basking Ridge Free Public Circulating Library, 1898.
Friends of the Basking Ridge Library Report, 1957.
Historical Booklet of Bernards Township, N.J., published to Commemorate the Bicentennial, 1760-1960, Historical Booklet Committee, Basking Ridge, May, 1960.
Incorporation of the Basking Ridge Library Company.
Information Received from Michael L. Connolly, During the Summer of 1931, Relative to Old Houses in Basking Ridge and Tenants of Same, as of the Year 1871, October 1, 1931, as told to William L. Scheuerman Sr., Basking Ridge, N.J.
List of Basking Ridge Mutual Loan Library, Library No. III, 1884.
Recollections of M. Louise Henry, circa 1958.
Report of a meeting of the Planning Board Committee and the public, with history of business district, prepared by Norman Hankinson, June 19, 1979.
Scrapbooks of Dr. William Pennington, 1884-1914.
Some Facts about the Basking Ridge Library, Basking Ridge Library Association, 1956.
PLAQUES, DEDICATIONS, ACKNOWLEDGMENTS OF GIFTS AND SERVICES TO THE BERNARDS TOWNSHIP LIBRARY
Lillian Welch Reference Room.
Kitchen in Memory of Sarah Byrd Askew, N.J. State Commission of Public Libraries, 1905-1963.
Margaret Bergen Dunham, 31 years of service, 1932-1963.
Samuel Shannon Childs, this site and building presented by his wife, Emma F. Childs, 1930.
Miss Mary B. Barkalow, 34 years of service (1898-1932).
PLAQUE OF BASKING RIDGE LIBRARY, In Appreciation of Generous Contributions and Bequests Made to Library:
A.A.U.W., Somerset Hills Chapter
Mrs. Charles F. Baker
Mary B. Barkalow Memorial
Basking Ridge Garden Club
Bernards Township Kiwanis
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Booth
Phebe Conklin Memorial
Friends of the Basking Ridge Library
Mrs. Ludolph Conklin
Eleanor Loyer Memorial
Mr. and Mrs. Nelson W. McCombs
Mrs. Muriel Grant Rowley
Mendel M. Schaenen Memorial
Mrs. William L. Scheuerman Sr.
Willis Folkes Scheuerman
Evening Dept., Women's Club
Junior Women's Club, Bernardsville
Women's Club, Bernardsville
Somerset Hills Jaycees
Priscilla P. Carswell
Margaret B. Dunham