Libraries are the most democratic institutions in the United States. Like so many aspects of our democracy, public libraries are both strong and fragile.

So, first, I want to thank everyone who keeps us strong: elected officials who believe in us, partners who inspire and challenge us, teens who bring such energy, elders who make a visit to the library part of their routine, artists and writers who contribute their talents, students and tutors who work so hard, the young ones who start their reading journey with us, and  last but not least — our incredible staff, donors and volunteers.

Thank you all!

It’s not surprising that, like so many things in our town, the Montclair Library has long been in the forefront in terms of innovation, outreach, inclusion and providing an ever-changing forum for the people who live here.

The New Library

Libraries have changed so much in the last decade. There’s a lot less “shush” and a lot more “do” in the library. A library is not just a building, and it’s not just books. It's all the people who come to the library and participate online and all the people who make it possible. This is especially true at the Montclair Public Library.

The new library requires constant innovation while maintaining core services. You could see this during the pandemic, when we set aside old measures of service, like door counts, while we figured out how to get you what you needed. We increased online programs, streaming movies and downloadable materials. Through our online author talks, we connected to our neighborhoods and communities as far away as New Zealand. We loaned Chromebooks to seniors and students and kept them connected by offering hotspots for internet access.

When we couldn’t open, we checked out your materials in front of the building and delivered them to your homes. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t easy, but we were guided by simply hearing what you needed.

We continue to keep that balance and vision of staying connected with you as we expand hours and services while making sure the library is welcoming and safe.

Changing Lives

No matter what changes, libraries are where people can gather their strength — and gain information — to improve their lives.

A patron recently told us how the library helped her family during hard times. They often used our museum passes. Most of all, they enjoyed a research game: collecting leaves and flowers outside and using books and computers at the library to identify them. One of her children earned a degree in environmental science and works at a Natural History Museum. She attributes this to the library, which was there when she needed it most and changed the trajectory of all their lives.

What an honor to be able to provide the services and resources — everything from a safe place to sit to a lecture by a best-selling author — that can make the difference.

Help Us Be Better

The Montclair Public Library is not just about money or books or buildings. Our libraries are about meeting people where they are and helping them get to where they want to go. It is about being a vital part of our community.

We need your input so we can be the best possible library. Please take a few minutes to take the survey we have linked from the front page of I promise it’s short.

Thank you for being our partners in making a better Montclair, a better world.

Janet Torsney is interim director of the Montclair Public Library.

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