History of the Wyckoff Free Public Library


Brian D. Scanlan, September 6, 2010

One hundred years ago what would become the Township of Wyckoff was a rural community, with little in the way of public services. Books were expensive, the invention of the cheap paperback book would not fully arrive until the 1960s, and what loaning occurred was done privately or to children through schools (elementary education became compulsory in New Jersey in 1875). New Jersey established the Public Library Commission in 1900 to foster the creation of free local lending libraries. On January 25, 1921, five years before Wyckoff was incorporated, a volunteer organization called the “Women’s Work Committee,” heard a talk entitled “Books and the Formation of Public Library Associations in Rural Communities” by a librarian from the state commission. Following the talk in the chapel of the Wyckoff Reformed Church, the Women’s Work Committee passed a resolution to create a Public Library Association in Wyckoff. The population of Wyckoff in 1920 was 1,671.

Headed by Margaret Rambaut, and organized with the help of two other public-service minded women, Virginia Hubbard and F.J. Lockwood, the “Wyckoff Public Library Association” was established in February 1921, incorporated in April of that year, and, in just three months, enlisted 228 members who each paid one dollar. Any resident could use the library and need not be a subscriber to the Association. To raise money for books and other expenses, two annual dances were held. The first home of the library was a building, not much bigger than a barber shop, at Railroad Avenue (later re-named Main Street) and Morse owned by Peter Van Houten. Rent was $15 a month, which included a fire in a pot belly stove in the winter to heat up the room.

The doors opened on May 14, 1921 with 1,050 volumes, including 200 given by the state, 250 loaned by the state, and 600 donated by the Zachary Masker Post of the American Legion and residents of Wyckoff (Zachary Masker was a Franklin Township resident who gave his life for his country in World War I). Initial hours were Wednesdays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. During the first year, about 850 more books were added. Various residents served as librarian, both on a paid and volunteer basis, until Gisela Frederick was hired and served until 1940. In 1923, a rental collection of newer titles was established (14 cents a week). The vast majority of the collection was donated. The minutes of 1924 mark the first time the Board of Trustees discussed the need for the library to acquire land to build its own building; such discussions would continue for the next 35 years.

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