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Local History

Local Newspaper Archives

Millburn Township’s local newspaper, The Item, has now been fully digitized and is available online, with archived issues dating back to the late 1800s, including full-text search capability— researchers of local Millburn & Short Hills history are welcome.

Local History Materials

The Millburn & New Jersey special collection, located behind the Information Desk next to the large glass windows, includes historic materials concerning Millburn Township, Short Hills, and/or New Jersey state in general. Most of the historic items cannot be borrowed, only used in-library (we have a photocopier & scanner available if necessary). Please use the online catalog or speak to a reference librarian about finding local history materials.

Also available in-library are the local Millburn High yearbooks, dating back to the 1940s.

More information can also be found from the Millburn-Short Hills Historical Society.

from the 1930s to today

Millburn Library's History

The history of Millburn Library itself as a legally organized public institution dates back to the 1930s; however, it took a determined effort to reach even that point.

1930s-1958
Inception

The following passage, written in 1958 regarding the Library and its history, is taken from Marian Meisner’s “A History of Millburn Township”:

In 1938 by popular referendum, Millburn Township at last had a free public library. Many times throughout the life of the Township attempts had been made to establish a library in Millburn.

As long ago as 1873 Stewart Hartshorn had established a reading room. Later, Mrs. Hartshorn, and a group of ladies had made another effort. In the 1930s Frederick J. Clark willed his personal library to the Town as a nucleus for a library. In 1935, the Junior Service League appointed Mrs. W. S. Auchincloss Chairman of a committee to establish a reading room in the Recreation House in Taylor Park. Two thousand books were donated by citizens. The project was abandoned in 1936 for lack of help and cooperation from the public and the books were stored in the Paper Mill Playhouse. Later a meeting was held there and the Millburn Library Association was formed, supported by private subscriptions, but the Library was still not available to enough families. However, it was an important step forward for it had the effect of arousing the citizens to an awareness of the need for a free and public library.

Stewart Hartshorn

Public-spirited citizens took up the battle and the question was at last put up to the voters in the November 1938, election, and the question was finally settled.

The first library building was located in a small house, since razed, at the intersection of Brookside Drive and Old Short Hills Road. That house had been a private home, then Cornell’s butcher shop, then its ownership passed to the Township, becoming the first Library. Mrs. Shirley Hedden was one of the first librarians. She was the children’s librarian and assistant to the head librarian until the resignation of Miss Frances Duck as chief librarian in 1946. Mrs. Hedden served the Library continuously from 1940 until her resignation in 1957. Miss Elizabeth Farrar succeeded Mrs. Hedden as Librarian in that year.

First book lent by the Library

The first head librarian in 1938 was Margaret R. VanIngen, who was succeeded by Dorothy A. Dickie, but each served only a short time.

During the first year of its existence 23,302 books were taken out; last year, (1957) the circulation was 81,670 books. The library now houses 30,731 books, most of them acquired by purchase, but many were received as gifts also. Among the latter being the business library of Walter A. Staub, which was presented as a memorial to Mr. Staub.

 

1936
Encouraging Words from Eleanor Roosevelt

A letter from Eleanor Roosevelt to the Millburn Library in 1936.Mrs. Auchincloss, the first President of the Library’s Board of Trustees, was a tireless advocate on behalf of the library and drew words of support from high places, as evidenced by a letter from First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, in October of 1936.

 

1938
First Building

The first Library location, in an old butcher shopAs stated above, the first public library opened its doors on the corner of Old Short Hills Road and Brookside Drive in a building that had once been a butcher shop.

1952-1954
First Renovation

Over the years the Library grew, and in 1952, $97,000 was appropriated by the Township Committee to renovate a structure at the corner of Essex Street and Lackawanna Place– the original home of Congregation B’nai Israel– as a memorial library. In addition to the Township appropriation, donors contributed another $80,000, and in September of 1954, the doors were opened at the new Library.The old Millburn Library

1976
New Library at Glen Avenue

Major C. Thomas Thomas and Library Board president, Arthur Spiegelman, breaking ground for the new Glen Avenue library.The building at the corner of Essex Street and Lackawanna Place remained in service until 1976 when the present Glen Avenue facility was opened.

Mayor C. Thomas Thomas and Library Board President Arthur Spiegelman are shown here breaking ground for the new library.

 

1983
Reading Rainbow Launches with Us!

Did you know that not only has Millburn Library featured in the classic TV show, Reading Rainbow, but that we appeared in its very first episode? Check out this scene from June 6, 1983, you’ll be sure to recognize our famous spiral staircase as 80’s bookworms sing & dance through the stacks!

2000

The Millburn Library joins BCCLS (Bergen County Cooperative System), which at the time consisted of 68 libraries in Bergen, Essex & Passaic counties (now 77+). BCCLS membership allows Millburn patrons to request items from any other BCCLS library.

2021
2021 Renovation

In late summer of 2021, Millburn Library will undergo major renovations, including to the Childrens, Teens, and Information areas. The Library also launched an updated website.

Today
Millburn Public Library Today

A seven-member Board of Trustees governs the library, five of whom are appointed by the Township Committee for five-year terms. The Mayor and Superintendent (or their appointed representatives) are permanent members of the Board. The President of the Board of Trustees is Ruthie Binder, and the Director of the Library since 2013 is Michael Banick.