Library Annual Report 1960
To the Members of the Board of Trustees:
The year just passed was a year in which every member of the staff could hold a sense of accomplishment and a pride of growth-- but at the same time, if the truth be told, a deep feeling of frustration. For each accomplishment, it seemed, so much more remained to be done.
In one sense 1960 marked an anniversary. Thirty years ago the Village erected the substantial addition to the library which now houses the main book stack and the children's room. To the librarians, and to the public of that time, there must have seemed plenty of room for growth into an indefinite future. And so there was! South Orange, in 1930, could well be proud of its new library facilities.
The succeeding thirty years, however, have seen changes in both South Orange and in the nation, and changes also in the function of the public library. The growth of population in the Village is but one factor involved. Equally important has been the cultural and social change in American life brought by depression and war. A far greater proportion of the population have advanced education. The level of instruction in the secondary schools has been raised to a surprising degree. A more serious world seeks detailed information on subjects and places of which their grandparents had never heard; and a world with greater leisure time seeks recreational reading on a far broader scale.
Even beyond this, the field and function of the library in A,American life has been vastly broadened in the past three decades. Modern technology has perfected means to preserve sound and to reproduce pictures and images with great fidelity. Modern interest have sought a meeting of minds and an exchange of ideas in a process that continues long after formal education has been completed. The modern public library recognizes all this, and seeks to meet it as fully as possible. No longer merely a collection of books on shelves, where one can find something for Saturday-night reading, the public library has become a cultural center for the entire community.
To the greatest extent possible, the South Orange public Library has sought to meet these growing needs. Our book collection has more than tripled its size since 1930, and includes a larger proportion of the fine and important books. A record collection, picture collection, and films have been added. Files of periodicals and pamphlets provide the most up-=to-date material.
In 1960, however, we reached the limit of our present facilities. Shelving and filing have been crowded into almost every available corner, and even window sills are occupied. Our readers and students far outnumber our seating and table capacity. Our workroom facilities cannot handle a greater flow of books. Our children's and young people's programs are limited by space and arrangement. These are not new problems, but ones which have been growing over recent years and which have now reached critical proportions.
The Board of Library Trustees has been aware of these problems, and has had recent studies made of the best ways to meet them. In May of 1960 a specific request was made to the Village Trustees for authority to go ahead with plans for a new library building, and to engage an architect to prepare specific plans. Discussions continued during the summer and fall. The establishment in December of our official Village Planning Board has led to further discussions.
Nevertheless, the year was not without progress. It has always been part of our purpose to work closely with the schools of the community, both public and private. Now a much closer relationship has been established with the public secondary schools through joint meetings of staff members of the South Orange and Maplewood public libraries and the respective school librarians. Several meetings also included members of the school faculty and administration who told us in advance of their plans for the current school year. Such a liaison helps up to provide more effectively the materials and assistance that the students need in connection with their work. We have, of course, continued the practice of arranging classroom deposits of books in rotating collections for the schools which have no libraries of their own, and of encouraging classes and special groups to visit our children's and young people's rooms.
Our children's room has continued its practice of morning story hours during the year for pre-school children, and of a summer reading club for children in the early grades. Both are immensely popular, and where attendance must be limited a waiting list is maintained. The story hours particularly are filled to the capacity of the room on two mornings each week. We have enlarged them in number in each of the last two years, and still cannot accommodate all who desire to attend. Since it seems impossible to increase the size of the groups any further, we have given consideration to running more groups and scheduling them in alternate weeks, or of running sections in six or eight week units. This, of course, would mean that we would be able to give less to each individual child, but would be able to offer something to more children of the town.
Our Young People's program has been quite limited by want of space. The new curricula in the Junior High Schools and the advanced courses of study have taxed us to the limit. The Young People's librarian has made increasing use of the adult collection, and it has been necessary on occasion to send people of this age group into the adult reference and reading room. The installation of additional shelving to accommodate a modest expansion of Y.P. books has taken up the last available area, and further growth here is impossible. The best solution to the problem would be a closer integration of Young People's activities with the adult reference work. Mrs. Kleintop and Mr. Bodger have spent much time and energy in this direction, both in the selection and handling of materials and in working directly with the teenagers. Both deserve the highest commendation for the progress they have made, but the awkward and inefficient arrangement of the building sharply limits their effort.
The adult use of the library continued on a high level, from the college students doing serious study to the men and women seeking light recreational reading. Circulation of materials for home use showed a slight decline, the first such decline in a decade, but the use of the reading room and the call for materials to be used in the library were greater than ever. There were periods, indeed, when it became necessary to have an extra person on duty in the evening in order to meet the pressure.
Our work in adult circulation was eased in considerable measure by the installation at mid-year of the Gaylord charging system. While this involved a temporary overloading of our staff during the changeover, with the reregistration of borrowers and the issuing of new library cards, the transition went smoothly. The new system not only speeds up the desk procedure but also increases the accuracy of our circulation records.
After its beginning in the autumn of 1959, our Great Books discussion group grew slowly into 1960. Now, however, in its second year, it has become one of our more successful activities. With good discussion leaders and faithful and inquiring members, the group has explored deeply some of the great minds of the past.
We observed National Library Week this year by going out into the community to demonstrate the library as an integral part of Village life. To this end we enlisted the aid of South Orange merchants and businessmen in a program of window displays. In every case we emphasized that we did not want them to give up their window to the library, but that we wanted to work with them in displays that would identify books with their own field of business. The response of the businessmen was highly gratifying. More than a score of windows in the Village included books as part of their display. Particular commendation should be given to Mrs. Robison who, with the help of Mrs. Currie, did so much to make this effort successful.
The State of New Jersey, in November of this year, distributed the first funds made available under the Stat Library Aid Act. The South Orange Public Library was able to qualify for the maximum amount, in accord with the standards of service we have maintained. The bulk of the money was spent for special reference works which we had long wanted to have but which we had never felt justified in purchasing from our annual budget. The balance was spent for shelving and for the better handling of our record collection.
In connection with the renewal of our insurance policy, we undertook at the end of the year a general revaluation of our holdings. Our book collection was valued at $135,783, with an additional $2,480 for records and films. This was nearly double the evaluation of six years ago, and represents both an increase in the size and quality of our collection and a substantial increase in the cost of books. The building and other contents have been included in a blanket coverage of municipal buildings and property, with the building itself valued at $165,000.
We had several significant changes in staff personnel during the year. Mrs. Anne M. Targer, who for two years had supervised the operation of our circulation desk, resigned at the beginning of October. During the autumn we were able to secure the services of Mrs. Olga Fillips as Junior Library Assistant and Mrs. Assunta Terrezza as Senior Library Assistant. Both came to use well qualified by experience for their respective positions, and make welcome members of our staff. This fall, also, Mr. Fred Parry, who had been our building custodian for nearly twenty years, retired on pension. As his replacement we employed Mr. Isham Brown who has been carrying on the work in good order.
Members of the staff continued active in the larger library world, participating in meetings and associations of their respective fields. Our people not only attended meetings of the New Jersey Library Association, but of the regional groups of catalogers, reference librarians, and children's and young people's librarians. In addition, your director attended the join meeting of the American and Canadian Library Associations held in Montreal in June 1960.
I cannot close this report without commending each member of the staff for his diligence in carrying on under increasingly adverse conditions. To them, individually and collectively, must go much of the credit for the work the library has been able to accomplish in the past twelve months.
Fred B. Bloomhardt
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