A Brief History of the Wyckoff Free Public Library – continued


A state statute signed into law by Governor Thomas Kean in 1985 amended a state funding requirement first established in 1894, amended in 1994, that municipalities provide a budget to the local library equal to the total of 33 cents for every $1,000 of assessable property within the municipality (see http://www.njstatelib.org/NJLH/lh1985/L1985c541.pdf). The new law switched the requirement from 33 cents for every $1,000 of assessable property to an equalized valuation of assessable property within the municipality. The new legislation ensured that public libraries would remain open in the face of recession-driven budget cutbacks.

Compact discs of music were added to the collection, and the library began to acquire and loan videos in 1987. With portions of the collection relegated to storage and recognizing the need for further expansion, in 1995 the Library Board under the leadership of Alma Mader began to systematically put aside funding for an addition and full renovation of the library. The purpose of the building fund, which would grow to $4 million by 2010, was to ensure that municipal taxes would not need to be increased to support the project, nor would any borrowing be necessary. In 1987, the Wyckoff Library joined BCCLS, a larger consortium (now with 75 members), with interlibrary loan available to patrons directly via computer terminals (now such loans can also be arranged via the Internet, here: www.bccls.org). Appropriate wiring was installed, and the library converted entirely to computerized checkout and check-in. By 1990, circulation increased to 157,876 items and the collection to 64,741.

The library saw a facelift in 1992, improving the entry way and replacing the carpeting. The card catalog was removed as part of the project, making the switch to electronic records complete. Later that decade, computer stations for Internet access were added to library services. In 2000, automatic sliding doors improved ease of access for patrons with arms laden with books and 2003 saw the hiring of the first reference/young adult librarian and the addition of programming for teenagers. Wireless Internet came to the library in 2007 and downloadable e-books became available for loan in 2009.

In 2009, the library loaned 260,452 items, its highest circulation ever at the time of this writing. Librarians handled more than 90,502 interlibrary loan requests that year, attesting to the popularity of BCCLS, and the 67,190 reference questions put to the staff in 2009 offers some evidence that not everything can be Googled. The motion-activated sliding doors opened more than 200,000 times that year.

After moving for 15 months to a smaller, temporary home on Wyckoff Avenue, on May 19, 2012 the Library reopened after a renovation and expansion which increased its square footage to nearly 28,000. To fund the expansion and avoid bonding, the Library Board of Trustees saved the amount needed from its operating budget over a 12-year period. With 80,000 items for circulation, the new library increased the number of computers available for public use to 42, including 10 iPads. The facility features a separate children’s wing, named for former patrons Helen and Evelyn Rizzo, who died in 2007 and 2009, respectively, leaving a $1.5 million bequest for the library. The Friends of the Library donated $105,000 for furniture and technology. The expansion also includes a larger meeting room, named for former Wyckoff mayor Henry Shotmeyer, whose family made a $30,000 donation toward its construction.

Following the retirement of long-time director Judy Schmitt in 2010, Mary Witherell was named director. In July, 2012, the library was awarded a $7,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to do “The Big Read,” a program series dedicated to engaging local communities in reading. The grant, which was matched by the Friends of the Library, will be used to fund a series of programs called “The Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe.”

Sources: In 1972, Wyckoff Library Board Member John Piekema wrote “Fifty Years and Forward: A History of the Wyckoff Free Public Library.” For the full text of Mr. Piekema’s labor of love, click here.

Beckerman, Edwin, “A History of New Jersey Libraries 1750-1996.”

Other sources include the minutes of the library board meetings and the Wyckoff News. The Wyckoff News, which ceased publication in 1992, is available in its entirety on microfilm in the Wyckoff Library and serves as an excellent source of Wyckoff history.