At JC library, reading – and dancing – are fundamental
Spring bash to raise money for renovation
by E. Assata Wright
Reporter staff writer
Apr 22, 2012 | 2610 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HISTORY LESSON – Last fall, author and Jersey City native Thomas Benton gave a reading on the history of local chromium contamination. He appeared at the Main Branch, now slated for a $14 million renovation.
HISTORY LESSON – Last fall, author and Jersey City native Thomas Benton gave a reading on the history of local chromium contamination. He appeared at the Main Branch, now slated for a $14 million renovation.

At present, the proposed $469.3 million municipal budget for 2012 does not include any furlough days for city workers, great news for library patrons who have had to contend with abbreviated hours and library closures over the last two years due to reduced staffing hours. The city’s library system, officially known as the Jersey City Free Public Library, returned to full normal hours on Feb. 1 to much fanfare.

Proposed cuts to the library system in the last two budget cycles have made the city’s libraries a cause célèbre among residents at City Council meetings and in letters to the editor. A proposed cut of $800,000 to the library budget last year was eventually restored. The restoration enabled Priscilla Gardner, executive director of the Jersey City Free Public Library, to re-hire part-time employees who had been laid off.

Still, the system continues to struggle to meet its mission and serve its customers within the confines of tight city finances. This leaves little money left over for long-range – and pricey – special projects the library system would like to undertake in the future.


‘We serve an important need in the community.’ – Priscilla Gardner


“My first priorities are to make sure that the libraries are open and keep bestsellers on the shelves so that when the patron comes in asking for a specific book it’s there,” said Gardner. (These bestsellers can even be borrowed in an eBook format.) She has, however, set a goal to renovate the library system’s Main Branch at 472 Jersey Ave., an undertaking that will cost an estimated $14 million. The Jersey City Free Public Library Foundation each year holds spring and fall fundraisers to help raise money for this project.

“We know we’re not going to be able to raise $14 million in one night,” Gardner stated. “But there are some small projects within that bigger project that we can do. For example, we’re going to restore the stained glass window as you come in the Main Library. We’re also going to purchase a waterfall that will be installed as part of the renovation.”

Last year the library’s annual spring fundraiser brought in about $23,000. Now in its ninth year, the library’s spring fundraiser previously raised money for the purchase of security cameras at all the branches and the purchase of a custom-built Bookmobile.

Oh, what a night

The annual spring fundraiser for this capital project will take place on Thursday, May 10 from 6 to 10 p.m. at Michael Anthony’s, 502 Washington Blvd., in the Newport area. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased in person from Jersey City Free Public Library Foundation Trustees or at the library administration in the Main Branch. The Main Branch is located at 472 Jersey Ave. Checks, made payable to the Jersey City Free Public Library Foundation, can be sent to Library Executive Director Priscilla Gardner at 472 Jersey Ave., Jersey City, NJ 07302.

The night will feature dancing and music from a live band that will play classic oldies, beginning with the Buddy Holly-era. There will also be a silent auction.

Two newly-created awards, for humanitarianism and education, will be awarded at the ceremony. Franklin Walker, the current acting school superintendent, will receive the Educator of the Year Award. Helena Ruman, the architect who designed the Glenn D. Cunningham Branch Library and Community Center, will receive the Humanitarian of the Year Award. Previously, Ruman assisted in the renovations of the Miller Branch Library and the Pavonia Branch Library. She is currently working on the Main Branch capital project renovation.

Waiting at the gates

Completing the renovation of the Main Branch will take years. Yet that has not stopped Gardner from identifying other needs that she’d like to see funded in the future.

“I know there’s a library in California and the patrons can borrow Kindles,” she said. “I want to look into how they were able to do that. I would love to do that…The library is the poor man’s university. We have 280 computers and they are always reserved because there are still many people who don’t have computers at home. So, we do serve an important need in the community. When we come here at nine o’clock to open the doors there are always people already lining up to get in.”

To learn more about the Jersey City Free Public Library, its offerings, and the upcoming fundraiser, visit

E-mail E. Assata Wright at

Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet