Library History

Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, June 2010

A  Berkeley Heights Public Library Timeline - the 59th anniversary of the referendum approving its creation as a municipal library approaches: 

  •  1946: A committee of local residents began meeting to discuss the need for a public library and possible locations. The first idea was to build a memorial library on Park Avenue across from the Municipal Building.
  • 1948: This idea and the hopes of raising sufficient funds by solicitation and fund-raising were abandoned. The Township Committee started placing $ 5,000 annually in a fund for the erection of a suitable library.
  • 1949: The current location, the former Mt. Carmel Hall, was first discussed.
  • 1951: The Library Committee requested purchase of Mt. Carmel Hall and a referendum to establish a municipal library.

The Referendum: It was a pivotal referendum for Berkeley Heights; a library and a new name for the town was the outcome.

  • Public Question #1 To establish a Free Public Library in New Providence Township pursuant to N.J.L.A. 40:54-1 to 40:54 – 29
         Yes – 608 No – 360
  •  Public Question #2 To purchase and convert Mt. Carmel Hall for library purposes
         Yes – 442 No – 412
  •  Public Question #3 To change the corporate name from Township of New Providence to Township of Berkeley Heights
         Yes- 746 No - 159

  • 1952: The Township Committee immediately appointed the first Board of Trustees of the Free Public Library of Berkeley Heights. After electing officers, the Board’s next action was to request $ 2,500 for preliminary surveys, plans, sketches, and estimates for the acquisition of property. After that, the Board requested $ 55,000 for the purchase of a site, equipment, furnishings, books and incidental expenses.Architect Harry Maslow, a local resident, was engaged to turn Mt. Carmel Hall into a library.
  • 1953: The Dedication Ceremony was held in October 1953. Ten years later, Mr. Maslow was again hired to design plans for an addition to triple the size of the original library. The second dedication was held in December 1966. The building has undergone only minor exterior renovations since that time. The interior is another matter and the 1946 Committee might not recognize the trappings of a 2010 public library.
The Library Committee of 1946 displayed both tenacity and patience in achieving the goal of a municipal library in Berkeley Heights. Progress was not always fast or straight. Vincent Stabilis, a member of the original Library Committee and the first Board of Trustees, wrote about tedious and repetitious arguments and suggestions. At one point he despaired of ever having sufficient funds. He wrote “…without that omnipotent cash we will have to be satisfied with an airy library resting on the atmospheric foundations of a fleecy cloud.” The Library Committee persevered and their vision has endured.

Updated 3/14/11 with photo album and slideshow
Link to Photo album of Berkeley Heights Library History