Written By: Mabel Ranges and Corrine Semon
Money, they say, is the root of all evil – except in the case of the Demarest Public Library Association. Left-over money from the New Jersey Tercentenary Year celebration in Demarest was set aside by the Tercentenary Committee for use by a possible future library. The idea was Muriel Oliver’s and she and Adelaide Van Voorhies served on an ad hoc committee, headed by Betty Reid, which gathered information from neighboring libraries.
A town meeting was called by the committee on February 4, 1964 and was addressed by a representative of the New Jersey State Library. She introduced the idea of establishing a private association library as an alternative to a municipal library. Before the meeting ended, 20 enthusiastic people had volunteered to take the initial steps toward formation of the Demarest Public Library Association. By June 17, 1964 the association was a legal entity, with a board of 12 trustees including officers.
So many people were involved that it is impossible to list all of them. The talents of the late Sal Caltabiano, architect; Bob Siegler, the first president; Brownie Foster, librarian who set up the initial system; Arthur Reeve, attorney; and the late George Meadows, realtor, must be acknowledged.
The original hope had been to rent a store as a temporary library. However, during the summer the old Methodist Church building, formerly a YMCA hut from Camp Merritt during World War I, was purchased by the Association for $9,750. The sale was arranged by George Meadows, who advanced the cash for the purchase. He was repaid within three years. This paid for the building, its renovation, equipment, books, furnishings and operating costs of that period. The names of contributors are recorded on plaques in the foyer of the library.
By June, 1966 the renovation of the building was completed. Donated books were sorted and catalogued in the attic of the new Peoples’ Trust Company, now Bank of America.
The municipality can and does contribute to the support of the library, but control lies in the hands of the Board of Trustees. The balance of the budget is raised by the Annual Library Bazaar, a December Brunch, raffles and contributions.The Library is an enduring example of what can be accomplished through volunteerism, hard work, and the continuing financial support of the people of Demarest.
The Association joined the Bergen County Cooperative Library System in 1986. In 2009, a referendum was passed to establish a municipal library. The Demarest Free Public Library was then incorporated and the Association was dissolved. In 2005 the library embarked on a building plan to add a new entrance on Stelfox Street with an elevator making the building handicap accessible. Phase 2 of the project began in late spring 2011 adding a two-story addition on the Insley Street side to be completed by the fall of 2011. The new space will add a teen room downstairs and expand the adult reading area and add a conference room upstairs.