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The Newark Public Library:
125 Years of Innovation and Service

NPL in Living Color Conrad, Lisa. NPL in Living Color, 2014. Linoleum relief print with chine–collé and serigraph on Reeves BFK paper. 2/4, Edition variable. Special Collections Division, The Newark Public Library.
On view
April 14 – August 30, 2014

Main Library
Second Floor Gallery

May 19, 6:00–8:00pm

Newark Public Library
Newark Public Library, circa 1889.

The Newark Public Library is celebrating its 125th anniversary by highlighting its remarkable history and its dedication to the people of Newark with an exhibit of photographs and other historic materials. The Newark Public Library: 125 Years of Innovation and Service reflects on the Library's mission of service to the public even as it now strives to meet the demands of our 21st century customers.

In 1887, the citizens of Newark overwhelmingly approved by referendum the establishment of a free public library and in 1889 the Library opened on West Park Street near Broad Street with a collection of 10,000 books. The librarian, Frank P. Hill, introduced the concept of open stacks and demonstrated an awareness of changing community needs.

Newark Public Library
Ellis, Rowland C. The Newark Public Library. 1937. Drawing and artistís proofs for the wood engraving in the Special Collections Division.

When the city's population increased, property was purchased at what is now 5 Washington Street where a larger library would be constructed for Newark's residents. The cornerstone of the four–story Italian Renaissance style building was laid in 1899 and the new Library was dedicated two years later. The prominent edifice features many striking architectural details both on its façade and throughout its interior.

The progressive and influential librarian John Cotton Dana assumed the directorship in 1902 and promoted education, business, and culture in the Library. He purchased books for the blind, established a system of interlibrary loans, and opened the first business library in the country in 1904. Dana's outreach efforts expanded to hospitals. Upon Dana's death in 1929, Beatrice Winser continued extension services. Library materials were delivered to the homebound and, in 1930, a book truck brought reading materials to children throughout Newark.

Newark Public Library book truck
The Newark Public Library's book truck. 1930.

The Newark Public Library encouraged learning, hosted exhibits and musical programs, and introduced new services, research divisions, and branch libraries to meet changing needs. Significant initiatives during the 20th century included reading improvement classes, services to the homebound, a bookmobile that delivered reading materials to children, and a job information center.

In 1963, the institution became a Federal Regional Depository for New Jersey and the library also currently serves as a Statewide Reference Center, providing research assistance to libraries throughout New Jersey. Researchers can also access unique collections held by the library's specialized departments, most notably by the Charles F. Cummings New Jersey Information Center, the New Jersey Hispanic Research and Information Center, the Special Collections Division.

Seven branch libraries: Branch Brook, Clinton, North End, Springfield, Vailsburg, Van Buren, and Weequahic, continue as community anchors throughout the City of Newark.

Newark Public Library book truck
Booklet promoting national defense books at the library. Circa 1942.

Today, the Library hosts a range of enriching programs for its diverse population. The Library's celebrations of both Black History and Hispanic Heritage with music, dance, lectures, community discussions, and film are prime examples of the Library's extraordinary multicultural programming. Arts and crafts, SAT prep classes, college fairs, sign language classes, art exhibits, lectures, movies, and performances, are offered. Recently, grant funding has afforded the Library the opportunity to provide computer classes for all skill levels, with an emphasis on job search and career advancement. Special equipment in the Special Services room gives patrons with low vision access to reading materials. All events are listed on the library's calendar, which is accessible here.

The Newark Public Library: 125 Years of Innovation and Service, displays materials from the collections of the Charles F. Cummings New Jersey Information Center and the Special Collections Division. Architectural drawings, photographs, and ephemera documenting the Library's history, services, and modernization will be on view. Arranged thematically by curator Nadine Sergejeff, Special Collections Librarian, the exhibit emphasizes the ways the institution continues John Cotton Dana's legacy and embraces opportunities for innovation to serve Newarkers.

This exhibit is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey Historical Commission/Department of State, administered by the Essex County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs.

A reception will be held in the gallery on Monday, May 19 from 6:00 to 8:00pm.

All programs are free & open to the general public. For additional information about the exhibition or programs, please call 973-733-7779.

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Newark, NJ 07101
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