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BCCLS

#Public Libraries in NJ's Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Passaic Counties

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40 Years/40 Stories

In honor of BCCLS 40th anniversary in service to residents of Bergen, Passaic, Essex, and Hudson Counties, diverse voices from our public library communities have shared their stories of how membership in a BCCLS library has influenced and benefited their lives. Here are just a few of those stories:


“In BCCLS, 12 million books are available to the public. It’s like having my own private bookstore.”

As taxpayers, every homeowner has a stake in what happens at their library. It’s so important to know that the money for the library goes directly to what people want. I get a receipt whenever I check out that tells me how much money I have saved by borrowing books. My husband is a reader too and, between the two of us, we save $4000 to $6000 a year! In BCCLS, 12 million books are available to the public. It’s like having my own private bookstore. In all aspects of life, we don’t just live in a little environment. If you are part of a system like BCCLS, you are offered opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise have. Being part of a 77-member library system is as expansive as possible. It enhances your life to have more options. It’s true for the librarians too: With BCCLS, it’s as if, in every way, they are all working with one mind for the betterment of the community.

-- Judy Eisner, Millburn Public Library


“Membership in BCCLS libraries gives you a feeling of connection and relationship, a real kinship with other readers and people in the community.”

I did not use the library that much when I was a kid. I went on special occasions – sort of like fine dining! I only went if I needed some particular information - but that was when the library was just about books and looking things up. Now, they have become so much more. BCCLS is a blessing. It makes it possible for close to a million people to use library services effectively, even if they are not in their own town.Any one of us can call up information on our phones. But people want to meet, people want a place to gather together. I know the people who run the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn and I was involved when they were promoting it. So I asked, “What is an inn?” It is place where people go to share their experiences of life with others in a comfortable, homey environment. It’s friendship, its kinship. I believe the library is a hub of the community in that same way, a way to meet people and communicate. Membership in BCCLS libraries gives you a feeling of connection and relationship, a real kinship with other readers and people in the community. And that’s what makes the library as inviting and welcoming as home.

-- John Mongelli, Worth Pinkham Library, Ho-Ho-Kus


“Library time is a ritual we do together as a family…There’s constantly new things you might not come across anywhere else on your own. I took out 16 bonus books so far this year.”

I have lived in Glen Ridge for about 20 years now. The library is a big focal point for the community. We are a family of readers but we also take advantage of so many things besides books that the library offers. Music for car trips, scavenger hunts for the kids. I have an eight year old and an eleven year old. For us, going to the library is a family experience. There’s an energy and enthusiasm there -and it’s a way as a parent to keep the television at bay on the weekend. The staff is so creative with the kids. One week, it’s “Let’s decorate the downstairs for Dr. Suess Day.” Another it’s “let’s count the jelly beans in the jar.” On Saturday mornings, we start the day by walking together to the library. We return our books, see our neighbors, and the kids have activities there. I know I will bump into people we know. It’s a kind of town center where we come together. And then we walk home again. Library time is a ritual we do together as a family.

Displays at the library make such a difference in what I read. There’s constantly new things you might not come across anywhere else on your own. I took out 16 bonus books so far this year that I wouldn’t have otherwise. With the library, there’s no barrier, no risk to trying a book. I find books that appeal to me and say, “Let’s give it a spin.” It puts a real skip in your step when you go to the library and see something you heard about or that’s really popular and can say, “Hey, it’s here!” Every time the staff says, “We just got this in,” it’s the same time as the book store is putting it out.

Everyone on the staff is happy to be there and they are very helpful. I love the flyers with reading suggestions. There have to be fifteen different options for “If you liked this book, try these five books.”The library has a lot of events, and the director is always at these things, including on weekends and at night, and so is her staff. It shows a lot of commitment. They are always rolling out new ideas. If I were to tell someone who was new to town why I have a library card, I’d say BCCLS is first and foremost. Even if your town has a small library, if you are part of BCCLS, you could never get discouraged. It’s great. The best thing about BCCLS is that it leverages the capacity and the capabilities of all the other libraries. Glen Ridge is small, but it is only as small as all of BCCLS. My family gets all the things we want as though they were already in Glen Ridge. That’s huge.

-- Mark Holzapfel, Glen Ridge Library


“Whenever you come here, you feel like you’re part of a community.”

The people who work here are the nicest, most knowledgeable people that I have had the pleasure of ever knowing. They know everyone by their first name. They are always calling me back whenever I have questions – and they are a constant source of help. Whenever you come here, you feel like you’re part of a community.

-- Margie Fineman, Lee Memorial Library, Allendale


“I really feel like I know this library like my own skin...The library director doesn’t live here, but Hoboken is in her blood.”

I often call the library my second home.I have been a Friend of the Library for 30 years, as president three different times and now as treasurer. Hoboken is experiencing changing demographics and changing needs. The advent of social media and how we have harnessed its power has been amazing. It’s exciting to be part of all that is happening here.I really feel like I know this library like my own skin.

I am an incredible fan of our director’s. I have witnessed the transformation of the library during her time.Our city, too, has transformed into a visionary place.The fact that we are working so closely together is a wonderful example of the library’s outreach to every segment of the population. The director has filled the library with staff that are so knowledgeable and eager – and they are so successful. They have so many great ideas and are just a joy. Everyone is so willing to listen.Our director has a vison of what’s needed and she’s creative.She doesn’t live here, but Hoboken is in her blood. And BCCLS! With BCCLS you can get any book that has been printed. What an incredible opportunity it is to be able to get a book in a day or two if Hoboken doesn’t have it. THAT is what has made the library explode. There are limitless possibilities.

As co-president of the Friends, I started attending ESL classes to see what was needed, since it was the Friends who were managing and funding the program. I got hooked on what they were doing - and I have been an ESL tutor myself for 10 years now. As part of the 10 week course of study, the head of reference does a demonstration of the different language learning programs that are available with your library card. Mango, Rosetta Stone, learning to Become a Citizen. She helps people log in and practice their language skills. We have a student, an older Russian woman, who was barely able to speak English when she arrived. She now speaks fluently - but still comes to class because she has made so many friends there. She is justifiably so proud of herself. I was at a local school on some business when I happened to see the ID cards being made up for the faculty for the new school year. A former ESL student of ours was hired as a teacher there! With the library’s help and the community’s support, she had mastered English to the point where she was hired as a language teacher. That’s success. That’s the value of the library in people’s lives.

There is a constant stream of people in and out of the library all day long. I take my dog for a walk and see the crowds. One night as we were walking, long after the library was closed and locked, I noticed somebody was sitting at the top of the stairs with a laptop. He was using the library’s Wi Fi. I smiled to realize that the library doesn’t even have to be open for people to benefit from it! I took a quick photo of the scene and posted it to Facebook with a caption that said, “They just can’t stay away!” That epitomizes what the library is. There’s always something going on for every age group. Maybe most importantly, the library is the place where people make friends. It’s a great way to find people with the same situation you have. The building has become so beautiful and inviting and there’s a constant wave of new ideas. I love to see the convergence of people from all over.

-- Marilyn Freiser, Hoboken Public Library