On November 8th, 1960, the voters of Clark passed a referendum approving a free public library by a vote of 3,685 to 976. It was conjectured in the minutes of the old “Friends of the Library Services” in 1961 that the 976 dissenters must have pulled the wrong lever!
The first library opened on November 1, 1961 in a small store at 17 Lincoln Boulevard. Library use was above expectations and by 1962, the store proved to be inadequate. In April, 1963, the library moved into a larger store at 1069-71 Raritan Road. In 1966, the library moved to its current location.
In 1961, in accordance with State Library Laws, Mayor John O’Connor appointed the first Library Board of Trustees for the Clark Public Library. Edward S. Ayers was President, after whom the Ayers Meeting Room is named. Other trustees included Robert Dvorin, Mrs. George Robinson, Harry Streckfuss, and Charles Dreisen, along with the Mayor and Superintendent of Schools per Library Statute.
The library started with a small collection of less than 600 books, which has grown substantially since then. There were no computers back in 1961—just the trustworthy card catalog, with cards typed on an old Remington typewriter. Today, the online catalog allows seamless searching via the internet and online databases, as well as the internal collections of the library. Over 65,000 computer searches are conducted each year using the “free” internet workstations at the library. Today’s library features wireless and remote access, allowing patrons 24 hour a day access to the collections and databases.
In 2005 and 2006, the library was closed for a significant renovation/expansion project. The library space increased from 10,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet, adding a state-of-the-art computer training lab, meeting rooms and study rooms for the public, increased stacks for books and DVD’s, a café and teen area. The increased facility and collections were well-received by the public, with double-digit circulation increases and patron visits.
The library had no “staff” in 1961. Instead, there was an Interim volunteer organizational committee of about 20 people. In 1962, the library board hired its first part-time library director, Edward Temkin. Mr. Temkin had excellent vision and was quoted in the Newark Sunday News as saying a library, rather than “just a place where we store books should be an educational and cultural center of the community.” He can be proud that this is indeed what the library is today.