Special to Montclair Local

The Montclair Public Library (MPL) is celebrating an important anniversary, On April 11, the library turns 125. On that day in 1893, Montclair citizens voted for a public, tax-supported library. The library has seen many locations over the years, but the library’s dedication to the community has always been the same wherever its buildings have stood.

Earlier, MPL existed as a subscription library founded by Israel Crane in 1869, and in 1871 as an association library. Dr. John J.H. Love was a pivotal figure in the library’s success; once the municipal library was established in 1893, the collection was moved to the second floor of his office at 16 Church Street.

Additional moves were made. First was the abandoned Munn Tavern in 1898, and later the site of the tavern in 1904, when a building was constructed with help from Carnegie Corporation funding. The Bellevue Avenue Branch had one previous location, a room in John Mancini’s Bellevue Avenue real estate office. The Carnegie Corporation provided funding in 1914 to construct the building patrons enjoy today. The branch was renovated in 1985.

In 1955, the current Main Library building at 50 South Fullerton Avenue was completed with significant funding and site provided by the Davella Mills Foundation. The site was where Dr. Love’s former home stood. The Main Library was renovated in 1996 and upcoming renovation plans will be revealed at MPL’s birthday celebration on April 14 (tickets are still available, see below).

But the library has done much more than change over time — it has also been at the forefront of changes in library service as the field evolves and grows.

Beginning in 1927, Library Director Margery Quigley’s leadership brought MPL into a new era of innovation, with the introduction of a delivery service for homebound patrons and the adoption of a computerized circulation system. In 1940, the library became the subject of the documentary “Portrait of a Library” by Hans Berger and Cy Wexler. The film was screened internationally — and will be shown once again on April 14.

MPL continued to improve its services, with bookmobile outreach in the 1960s and 1970s and the installation of public computers in the 1980s. In 2002, the library was honored by Library Journal and the Foundation was established. In 2014, the Adult School of Montclair was integrated into MPL, increasing MPL’s provision of lifelong learning opportunities. In 2015, RFID checkout and the bookbike were introduced. Today, MPL continues to strive to provide the best library service possible.

As part of the celebration, MPL will sponsor Montclair Reads Cheaper by the Dozen, a community read of the classic book about one of Montclair’s notable families.
“We are very excited to be incorporating this bit of Montclair history and, of course, reading into our celebration,” says Library Director Peter Coyl.

Beginning April 14, the library will distribute free custom copies of the book and a discussion guide. Please email or call 973-744-0500, extension 2234 to reserve. MPL will make copies available to individuals, groups, book clubs or classes while supplies last.


• April 11, 4:30 p.m. - Community Birthday Party - storytime, facepainting, balloon animals, games and cake.
• April 14, 7 p.m. - 125th Birthday Gala Celebrate - Sneak peek of the restored 1940 documentary featuring the Montclair Public Library and a first glance at renovation plans by Andrew Berman Architect. Tickets -- $50 a person – are available online.
• April 30, 6:30 p.m. - Montclair Historian Michael Farrelly’s lecture: “The Gilbreth Family of Montclair.”
• May 4 at 6:30 p.m. - “An Evening with Peter Gilbreth.” Peter Gilbreth, grandson of Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth, featured in the book Cheaper by the Dozen, will share family memories and memorabilia.
• May 8, 6:30 p.m. - Step back in time to the Cheaper by the Dozen era with music by the Dapper Dans of Harmony and an ice cream social.
• May 11, 6:30 p.m. - Author Jane Lancaster’s lecture: “Beyond Cheaper by the Dozen: The Remarkable Lillian Gilbreth.”
• May 17, 3 p.m. - “From the Archives: Images of Old Montclair” will show pictures from the Library’s archives.
• May 17, 5:30 p.m. - “Meet the Robot” Inspired by Lillian Gilbreth, modern-day engineers from the Montclair High Robotics Club introduce the robot they created.
• May 24, 6:30 p.m. “The Ultimate Montclair Reads Book Club” will include a screening of a documentary about the Gilbreth’s work and a discussion led by Library Director Peter Coyl.
Visit for all the Montclair Reads details.