A History of Cranbury’s Public and School Libraries
The Cranbury Public Library was founded in 1906 and was first housed in the Cranbury Press Building on Main Street. The original Trustees were J. C. Chamberlain, D.N. Applegate, John G. Grover, G. H. Perrine, Mary Janiver, and Margaret E. Bergen.
The Cranbury Township Committee appropriated $100 to help the library get started and the Public Library Commission of New Jersey donated $100. A total of $105 was received from individual contributions during the first year and a book committee was formed for the purchase of books.
In 1908, the first librarian was hired, Georgia Nutt, at an annual salary of $75. In October of 1909, a new library room was secured at the Americana Hotel on Main Street for $55 per year which included light and heat.
In 1924, the Board of Education invited the library to locate in one of the school rooms, rent free. On January 26, 1925, the new library opened to the public with a new librarian, Margaret Bergen, who catalogued and classified all the books.
In August of 1938, the library was moved from the second-grade room to the teacher’s room across the hall. In 1950, with the completion of the new school addition, the library was moved to the basement of the Old School building.
Janet Reece became the librarian in 1955, serving in that position until 1971. The Cranbury Elementary School did not have a library and Ms. Reece began to give library skills instruction to the students. In 1962, the Cranbury Elementary School also hired Ms. Reece to serve as a part-time school librarian. The Board of Education began to allot funds for books, shelving, and supplies.
The years that followed were ones of tremendous growth for the Cranbury Public Library. When it became evident that a Cranbury Municipal Building (to include new quarters for the Public Library) would not be built the Public Library Trustees began to consider the possibility of being housed in the newly planned elementary school wing. Dr. John Trowbridge, School Superintendent, urged Trustees and Township officials to locate the library in the school building. A meeting of the Township Committee, Public Library Trustees, and the Board of Education members resulted in an agreement vote for a joint Cranbury Public Library and Cranbury School Library. A public referendum to expand the school was passed by the voters.
In February 1969, the move to the new school addition took place. At that time, Janet Reece served as both Public and School Librarian with Beverly Luck being hired as Assistant Public Librarian in September of 1970. Due to ill health, Janet Reece retired as School Librarian in late 1970 and from the Public Librarian position in1971. Beverly Luck assumed the duties of Public Library Director (1971-1987) and Joan Gaylord was hired to serve as the School Librarian (1970-1988).
From 1988 to the present, the following have served as public library directors:
- Gregg Wilensky, 1988-1989
- Mary Ellen Malague, 1989-1990
- Wendy Weinberger, 1990-1994
- Tina Reed, 1995-1996
- Allen Kleiman, 1996-1999
- Howard Zogott, 1999 -2007
- Marilynn Mullen, 2008 to the present.
During the same period, the following librarians served as school librarians:
- Lorelei Duncan, 1988-1993
- Louise Anish, 1994-2006
- Rebecca Lichtner, 2006 – 2009
- Karen Krieger, 2009-2010
- Lorelei Duncan 2010-2011
- Kelly Fusco 2011 to the present.
In the 1990’s with increased school enrollment and an increase in the community’s population, a need to expand the school/public library facility became evident. In 1996, as part of the school renovation and addition project, the community voted to expand the library. In February 1998, the Cranbury School and Public Library opened its doors in the renovated facilities.
Since 1998, the 28,000 volume library continued to grow to serve the Cranbury School population and the Cranbury Community through a shared facility. In August of 2008 John Haney, Chief School Administrator, spoke to the Library Board of Trustees at one of their meetings. He quoted the missions of both libraries and stated that the school would like more exclusive use of the library; time when no public was allowed in the facility. He proposed opening the public library at 11:00 a.m. instead of 10:00 a.m. He furthered proposed closing the public library at 1:00 p.m. and reopening again at 3:00 p.m. The Library Board of Trustees did not agree with this proposal. The community reacted by calling Board of Education members and signing a petition. As a result the public hours were not reduced. Instead both Boards set up a Task Force to address the situation. An architect was consulted and plans were drawn up to reconfigure the library space. The object was to move furniture and reshelf books so that adult patrons would have limited contact with school children during the day. In January of 2009 the reconfiguration project began and was completed in February. During the same time both Boards began work on a lease agreement between the Board of Education and the Cranbury Public Library Board of Trustees. The agreement was signed in August of that year.
In March of 2020 the COVID pandemic forced the closure of public buildings everywhere in New Jersey including the Cranbury School and the Cranbury Public Library. The school remained closed and no library personnel were allowed in the facility. In July the School Board told the Library Board of Trustees that the library could no longer occupy space in the school building. The Library was given one month to move out. From mid-August until November the Library Board worked at finding another home for the library. On November 3, 2020 the library moved into a temporary space in the Oddfellows Hall at 30 North Main Street. That same week the Board learned they had received a grant from the State of New Jersey to construct a new library.