A Brief History of the Wyckoff Free Public Library – continued


With the Township Committee refusing to take over responsibility for the library as a municipal operation, John Piekema and other trustees began a community-wide effort to raise money to construct a new library in 1954. The trustees enlisted the help of the Chamber of Commerce, the Garden Club, the Junior Women’s Club, the Village Players, the Democratic Club, the YMCA and numerous other civic and cultural organizations. In 1957 Virgina MacDonald offered her share of a lot on Morse Avenue and the library trustees purchased the remaining share for $9,500. Led by Committeeman William Evans, the Township agreed to contribute $30,000 towards the $40,570 cost of the building with the understanding that the lot and building would be transferred to the Township once the project was complete. The operation of the library would remain under the purview of the Library Association. The new building was completed in March, 1959; it now houses the Wyckoff Board of Education.

The new library generated both increases in circulation and in donations, and the first full-time, professional librarian director was hired in 1963, but the constant help of volunteers, particularly from the Junior Women’s Club of Wyckoff, was critical to its functioning. The library’s annual budget increased to $20,000. Wyckoff’s population grew to 13,000, but the library had a collection of only 13,099 volumes, still well short of the American Library Association’s standard at the time of 2.5 volumes per resident. Library patrons criticized what they saw as a deterioration in library services, and the director resigned after an uprising of long-term staff. A controversy erupted over the pages of the Wyckoff News over a newly instituted fine for overdue children’s books (“The ex-director may not have thought of this as an exploitation of the children’s small allowances,”Mrs. William Alvarez wrote,” and as discouraging the borrowing of books, but that is what it is”(Wyckoff News, June 25, 1964).) The first photocopy machine was installed in 1965, and hours of operation increased from 32 to 51 per week. By 1966, 7,500 residents,half the town’s population at the time, had library cards and the number of volumes had increased to 19,000. Recognizing the library would eventually outgrow its Morse Avenue location, the library board began to plan for a new, larger facility.

Donald Marione, a Township Committeeman and library trustee, championed not only creating a new, larger library but also supported making the library a municipally run and financed town service. While it took 38 years for the first library building to be constructed, Committeeman Marione’s zeal and skill shortened the time for the creation of the permanent home for the library to a mere four years. Library Director Donald Yott was also instrumental in this effort. On November 7, 1967, Wyckoff voters approved a public question to establish a free municipal public library and to construct a new library. Now that the library functioned under the auspices of the municipality, minimum state funding requirements had to be met. The assets of the Library Association were transferred to the Township in 1968, and the Township Committee authorized a bond issue in the amount of $214,500 for the purpose of funding the cost of a new library. A federal grant for $59,969 was also allotted to the project. Construction began in April, 1969, and the endeavor was not without its struggles. A steel plant strike contributed to building delays. The Township Committee had to authorize an additional $100,000 in bonds. Working closely with long-time library trustee David Amerman, a sales representative from Prentice-Hall publishers, Committeeman Marione guided the project. The eventual cost was $450,000. While the planning for the new library was underway, the collection grew to 26,000, finally achieving state standards, if not those of the American Library Association.

The new building, the home of Wyckoff’s current library, is 13,480 square feet and was designed to hold 50,000 volumes. It was dedicated on October 25, 1970. Wyckoff joined the North Bergen Federation of Public Libraries, an inter-library loan network that was a smaller precursor to the Bergen County Cooperative Library System (BCCLS, usually pronounced “Buckles”). The Friends of the Wyckoff Library was founded by the Library Board in 1971. The James Monroe room, named after a popular Wyckoff police officer, was opened for community events that same year. Its construction costs were funded by private donations. The library made music recordings and paintings available for loan.

In 1972 the Wyckoff News listed new book acquisitions (today, you can find these online at What’s New, and reserve them online, too). As the new facility allowed for a larger collection, circulation, including to children, dramatically increased, rising to about 120,000 in 1974 and 138,200 in 1975. Striving to keep up with newer technologies, in 1976 the library purchased a filmstrip viewer which could be used in conjunction with a cassette player. Popular circulating items included 45 RPM records, and typewriters were available for rent. Mr. Piekema wrote reviews of new book acquisitions for the Wyckoff News. By 1977, the collection had grown to more than 50,000 items, exceeding minimum national standards. Circulation grew to 122,883 in 1980 and the collection to 57,292 items.

Continued >>