Library Annual Report 1921

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Fifty-seven years ago, or to be exact, November 4, 1864, a library was started in South Orange. In those days and until 1886 it served subscribers only, but as the population of South Orange grew and the demand for books increased the subscription library became a free circulating library, which served the community as best it could with its limited facilities.

South Orange has always been a unique community and has always had among its residents men and women of vision, who gave freely of their time and their means to all worth while undertakings.

Such a man was Mr. F. Le Baron Mayhew, to whom, perhaps more than to any one else, is due the credit for the plans for the expansion of the Library, for it was the $1,000 he donated on the fifth of May 1881, as a nucleus for an endowment fund, the income of which was to be used for the purchase of books, that made the greater Library possible.

Shortly afterward Mr. E. V. Connett gave the land on which the present Library building stands, and Mr. Mayhew and Mr. Connett, with a few others, then proceeded to raise the funds for the erection of the building.

This money was obtained by popular subscription, and on May 8, 1896, our present Library building was formally opened, without debt of any kind.

I refer to these facts merely that you may know that these men, who builded better than they knew, were to a very large extent responsible for the success that followed the modest starting of Library in our Village nearly three score years ago.

In 1886, which was the first year of its existence as a Free Library, 7,078 volumes were loaned; since then the growth has been steady. There has been an increase each year in the number of volumes loaned, and during the year ended April 30, 1921, 41,082 volumes were loaned.

What is true of the steady increase in circulation is equally true concerning the increase in the number of men, women, and children who make use of the Library.

There were 498 new borrowers during the past year, making a total of 3,408 who, during the year just closed, drew on our book supply, and this number represents about one half of the population of our Village.

New books have been regularly added during the year just closed, over 900 new volumes were placed on our shelves; 1,144 volumes were discarded either because they were worn or no longer in demand, and of these 514 volumes were sent to various institutions in the state and are continuing to serve a useful purpose.

The Library is open twelve hours daily, from 9 A.M. to 9 P.M. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; 9 A.M. to 6 P.M. on Saturdays, and on Sundays from 3 P.M. to 6 P.M.

With a view to ascertaining how the South Orange Library compares with libraries in neighboring communities, I have gathered information which to me is gratify, and I am sure it will be a source of sanctification to all members.

This information divided into four parts, shows the number of books circulated per capita of population, the percentage of borrowers to the population, the cost of circulating each book, and the running expenses for the past year. The data includes South Orange, East Orange, Orange, Summit, Englewood and Montclair, and it shows that, with the exception of Monclair, South Orange circulated more books per capita of population. From the standpoint of percentage of borrowers to the population, the cost of circulation per book and the total expense for the year, the South Orange Library shows to better advantage than any of the others, its percentage of borrowers to the population being 47, its cost of circulation per book being 7.1 cents, and its operating expense for the year being $2,885. The figures in detail are shown in the accompanying table:

Number of books circulated per capita of populationPercentage of borrowers to populationCost of circulation of each bookSpent during past year
South Orange5.5477.1$2,885
East Orange4.94213.8$35,500
Orange2.72818.5$17,229
Summit5.14011.1$6,193
Englewood4.84011.5$6,700
Montclair7.1399.7$20,000
<p>This analysis, I feel, should prove of more than passing concern to every one interested in our Library, particularly as it shows that we have a considerable larger percentage of borrowers to our population than any of the other libraries hereabouts, and what, to my mind, is of great importance is that our operating cost is very low; indeed, is much lower than the cost of running any of the other libraries mentioned.

For a long time we have had a demand for scientific books, and, awhile we had a few books of this kind on our shelves, we lacked many of the volumes that should have been there. Mr. William Torrey Baird learned of this situation and very generously contributed $1,000 which was used for the purchase of the books that now form a nucleus of scientific section to our Library.

In the selection of these books we had the advice of Dr. William A. Hamor, Assistant Director of the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research of Pittsburgh. Dr. Hamor was chairman of a special committee of the American Chemical Society, appointed to recommend a list of chemical text books for circulating libraries. Most of the books are now on our shelves, and it is our purpose to loan them, not only to residents of South Orange, but to other libraries as well.

For twenty-five years the hot-air heating system gave more or less satisfactory service, but a year ago it was found necessary to install an entirely new system. Bids were obtained an the contract was awarded to the lowest bidder, who did the work under the direction of a heating engineer, the total cost being $1,765.

May I say, in passing, that during the year a special effort was made to obtain life members and special subscriptions, with the understanding that the money thus secured would be applied toward the furnace fund, and it is a matter of great satisfaction that the entire amount was raised.

The support of the Library is derived from its endowment fund, which now amounts to $19,400, and the dues of our members, who contribute $2 a year as associate members, $5 a year as sustaining members. The fee for life membership is $100.

During the year there was an increase in membership of twenty-six: Nine associate, fourteen sustaining and three fellow members. Forty members were transferred from associate to sustaining membership, five transferred from sustaining to fellow membership, and sixteen life members were added to our rolls. Those who became life members were:

  • Raymond T. Marshall
  • Felix Fuld
  • G. W. S. Whitney
  • Mrs. Mark Cox
  • Miss Elizabeth Woodhouse
  • E. H. Graves
  • Chharles F. Stiefel
  • Clarence B. Riker
  • B. B. Schneider Jr.
  • Louis Banberger
  • the late former Governor John Franklin Fort
  • South Orange Home and School Association
  • Mrs. Ida Doane
  • Mrs. F. Q. Barstow
  • Mrs. A S. March
  • James Marshall

I have already referred to our endowment fund, amounting to $19,400. Perhaps you would like to know how this endowment fund is made up, and the following gives the name of the donor, the amount and the date:

DonorAmountDate
Francis LeB. Mayhew$1,0001891
Mrs. F. LeB. Mayhew$1,0001904
Robert S. Sinclair$4001907
George A. Brown$1,0001909
Adeline C. Belknap$2001911
Andrew J. Dotger$10,0001911
Sophie R. Connett$5,0001911
Mrs. Wm. Cortelyou$1001911
S.O. Squash Court$1001911
Woodruff Farm Fund$2001918
Invested from funds in hand$4001918
Total.....$19,400
<p>This amount is invested in guaranteed mortgages, most of which yield five and one-half per cent. (none less than five per cent.), with the exception of $600 which is invested in United States Liberty bonds, forth issue, at four and one-quarter percent.

In addition, we have five shares of stock in the Meadlowland Society, the par value of which is $250

It seems to me that the incoming administration should give some though to the disposition of this stock and the proceeds added to the endowment fund.

Each succeeding administration for several years has considered the question of revising the constitution, but definite action was not taken until the present year, when a special committee prepared a proposed revision, which was unanimously adopted at a recent meeting of the Board of Trustees. Perhaps the most important change that was made was the reduction in the number of members of the board from twenty-one to twelve. This change was made largely because of the difficulty in obtaining a quorum at meetings of the board.

The annual meeting will hereafter be held in January instead of in May, the year begin changed from the fiscal year ending April 30 to the calendar year. At this meeting there are twelve trustees to be elected: Four to serve until January 1, 1922; four to serve until January 1, 1923; four to serve until January 1, 1924, and there after at each annual meeting, to be held in January, four trustees will be elected to serve three years.

The Library has reached a point beyond which very little, if any, progress can be made unless we have more room, and to obtain more room we must have a larger building.

Some time ago, with this in mind, Robert S. Stephenson prepared a sketch for an addition to our building, and a tentative estimate places $30,000 as the cost of carrying out these plans.

There is great need for a children's department, and recently the trustees gave serious consideration to adding such a department and to the employment of an assistant librarian trained in children's work, but as the plan unfolded it was found tat the children's room upstairs was much too small for such an undertaking and the idea must, for the present at least, be abandoned.

Our stack room is inadequate. We are unable to put out all of our books or to arrange those that are on the shelves in a manner convenient to the reading public. We have been doing the best we could under these handicaps, hoping that some means would be found to give us the proper working tools and thus enable us to do our best work.

Provided the money could be raised for putting an addition on our present building, I feel that the Library would be able to render a service of increasing value, and I strongly urge that the incoming board also gives serious consideration to this matter.

The extension of our membership is another matter that should be given careful thought. I believe that many of the people in South Orange have little idea how our Library is supported, and I feel sure they would gladly become members of it if they know more about the work we are doing and the service we are anxious to render.

I wonder if the members of the Library have any appreciation of the self-sacrificing and intelligent service rendered by Miss Julia Schneider?

Miss Schneider became librarian in 1910, and because of her love for the work and her natural desire to serve, has given freely of her time and her best thought to the duties in connection with the work.

I am sure every member of the Library joins with me in saying to Miss Schneider that we thank her sincerely for all she has done.

I have endeavored in as few words as possible to give a picture of the early history, the present situation and the future possibilities of our Library, and I hope what I have said may prove of some interest and value.

Harry J. Schnell, President
May 10, 1921