Denville Library: A True Township Gem

By Dawn M Chiossi

 

 

     “Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.”

    Former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson uttered those words many years ago regarding libraries, and they are just as relevant today as ever. The meaning and the sentiment behind them is so timeless that they transcend any age, any era.

     Everyone can relate to the utter excitement of going to the library, a feeling that begins when patrons are young, just starting to discover what they are all about. They may respond to the warm smile and a cheery greeting from a welcoming librarian, they may feel the awe and anticipation upon seeing the sheer amount of offerings that a library has, they may feel the bouncing anticipation, holding onto a parent’s hand, when choosing a book or signing up for a library program for the very first time.

     And for library lovers everywhere, that feeling never goes away.  Much more than an outing or an errand, going to the library is a journey into other worlds and adventures.

    For the curious, for the inquisitive, for the people who seek to know not only how things, situations and people work, but why they do so, a library is an excellent place to discover it all.     

  Upon walking in any library’s doors, it is quickly discovered that they are a virtual banquet of items for everyone to enjoy. From books to so much more, it is the ultimate shopping trip–being able to take out items with just a swipe of a library card, return them at a designated time, and do it all over again.

    So far, no trip to the store has ever been able to accomplish that. Nearly every community has one. Through giving, and sharing and learning, libraries not only transform lives, they transform and enhance the communities in which people live. With a mission to stimulate curiosity, intelligence, and a hunger to learn, there’s a whole universe out there to grab onto.       

 Take the Denville Public Library for example. Located at 121 Diamond Spring Road in Denville, the Denville Public Library has a rich history, guaranteed to intrigue local history buffs.  

     “The first library in Denville actually was founded all the way back in 1877 as the Union Sabbath School Library when Denville was just a sleepy little town,” shares Denville Public Library Director, Siobhan Koch. “Then in 1923, a library was set up by the Parent-Teacher Association (the location was the cloakroom of the four roomed school on Main Street), and they became affiliated with the Morris County Free Library. Together they formed an association library named the Denville Memorial Library. When the Main Street School was completed in 1924, the library made good use of a classroom there for its location. At the time, the first librarian who served was Adeline Keefe until 1929. It changed locations again in 1935 when they rented a storefront on Broadway. In 1952, the library moved again to Diamond Spring Road, becoming the Denville Public Library when it was municipalized in 1967. In 1985, it was built at its present location.”

     Even then in its early roots, the Denville Library was all about growing and expanding, to be a touchstone for the members of the community–A philosophy that still resonates today.

      With 23 devoted and passionate staff members, the Denville Library is always ready to be there for the patrons; helping out, handling the programming, organizing, making sure materials are in the system, and being that friendly face that greets them on their library adventure.  

    Something Koch wouldn’t have it any other way. For three years, she has been giving her time, enthusiasm and talents to the Denville Public Library, eager for every day.  “The Denville Public Library is the ideal place to work,” she asserts. “It has wonderful patrons, a dedicated staff, a great Board of Trustees, and a supportive Mayor, Council and Town Hall.”  She even mentions the fact that the library is also part of the MAIN Library consortium which means that it connects all of the libraries in Morris County as well as Bernards Township and Hackettstown which are outside of the county. Something that is not just smart, but wonderfully inclusive for all.

    A devotee of books and strong advocate of libraries herself, Koch has a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Iona College and a Master’s in Library Science from St. John’s. “I’ve been working in libraries since I was a senior in high school, so over 20 years now,” she enthuses. “Before working at the Denville Library, I worked in libraries in Bergen County,” she shares.

   For Koch, working at the library is all about the people. It is an opportunity to touch lives, to make a difference, to enjoy camaraderie, and share her love of library delights with them.

 “I began working at a library in high school and continued through my college years,” she shares. “I enjoyed helping people find the information that they were looking for and liked interacting with the patrons and getting to know the regulars.”

     Warm and vibrant, she shares that she loves the variety that working in the library brings.

    “No two days are ever the same,” she enthuses. “The staff here is so inspiring, the interactions that they have with patrons and the connections that they make really have an impact on people’s lives. I am always so in awe of their creativity levels.”

    With a virtual treasure chest of choices, this suburban library offers something to tempt every taste out there from books, to audiobooks, to movies, music, video games, magazines, hotspots, museum passes, backpack kits and health totes. There are computers for public use, free Wi-Fi, scanning, copiers, research and wonderful programs.

     Recognizing that learning and knowledge transcend any time at all, the Denville Public Library has much for the 21st Century world. They are open digitally 24/7 for free downloads of e-books and e-audio through Cloud Library, e-magazines and e-comic books through RB Digital (the world’s largest newsstand), children’s e-books through Tumblebooks, language learning with Rosetta Stone, genealogy research with My Heritage, and small business building with Gale Small Business Builder.

    Offering the warm feeling of community, and quaint feel of the small town, the Denville Library offers many programs and activities for people of all ages. From little ones, to teens, seniors and everyone in between.

         In fact, the Denville Library was even named one of the best libraries out there by The Daily Record in 2018. The contest was in its 21st year, special because the readers choose their favorites that they consider the best of the best in Morris County.

    An honor which the Denville Public Library is extremely humbled by. “We strive to meet the needs of our patrons. It’s nice when we are included in these types of lists to see that people feel good about the Denville Public Library,” Koch says.

    And with approximately over 100,000 people coming through their doors (as per last year), it is easy to see that they agree.

    When asked what makes the Denville Library so special to its patrons, Koch points to the vast amount of diverse programing that the library offers, everything from story times and book groups, to movies, to engaging the community with maker events and STEM Events for students.

   “We have a steady stream of people coming in and out of the library and our programs continuously fill up,” Koch enthuses. Mentioning the Museum Pass Program, she tells that this is ideal for those who love and enjoy art and culture. The Museum Pass Program is special because a library card can be exchanged for museum passes, getting in various museums for free!

    Some of the selections are The Morris Museum that admits four, Imagine That! that admits four, The Intrepid that admits six, Grounds for Sculpture that admits four and the USS Constitution in Boston that admits nine.

   “The pass is picked up the day before your visit, then have your day at the museum, and return the pass the next day. The Boston pass can be borrowed for two weeks. It’s just perfect to take the family or friends on an outing or day trip. It’s great!” Koch prides.

     Passes for the program may be reserved ahead of time or by stopping in.

    Additionally, they are very proud of their Read to A Dog program. Improving children’s reading and communication skills, through reading to licensed therapy animals. The atmosphere is relaxed and calm, and the children develop self confidence and positive associations regarding books and it’s a definite win-win of a program.

 “Our Read to A Dog Program has been a popular ongoing program, held on the first Saturday of every month for years now. These dogs are super friendly and happy to receive the love and attention from the children. They are eager to read aloud to them, which improves the children’s reading aloud skills while having a very non-judgemental listener,” Koch asserts. “It also has the added benefit of having a few of the children who initially were very afraid and apprehensive of dogs, to not be any more.”

    Perhaps the best thing about the Denville Public Library for Koch is their investment in community outreach. “We are always looking for new ways to get out into the community,” Koch tells.  These include so much to engage the community such as crafts/storytime at each of the lakes in the summertime and other preschools, to the Kindness Club, to pop-up libraries at the three senior facilities in town.

    “I have a special place in my heart for the Kindness Club. It gives children and opportunity to contribute and give back to society in various ways,” Koch discloses. Describing how the program was the brainchild of Youth Services Supervisor, Mary Ellen Liddy, she excitedly explains how the children put their hearts and talents into the projects that they are doing. “The children do crafts with the seniors at St. Francis, make posters for animals that need to be adopted, send cards to active military and veterans, and send cards to children that are sick. It’s wonderful to see how excited the children are to be helping out. Hopefully, it helps instill a desire to volunteer in the community in the future.”

     Another outreach program that is inspiring to Koch is the Pop-Up Library. This is a wonderful way to borrow materials and bring the library experience to people who cannot get to the physical building.

    “The first time that Susan Jansen and I went over to St. Francis in 2017, we bring about three boxes of books, audio books and DVD’s across the street and let the residents borrow the items. If they do not have library cards, we sign them up on the spot. The reason it stands out for me is that the residents were so grateful and happy to see us. There were a number of avid readers who had a limited ability to get around and were unable to come to the library. As some have told me, they could see it through the window, and it was torture not to be able to get there. It was, and still is to this day, very heartwarming to visit St. Francis (and now The Oaks and Cook’s Pond) to give them access to some of the library materials we offer.”

    For Koch and the rest of the Denville Public Library, it’s all about sharing. “The benefits of the library can be seen every day. Whether it’s a child developing a love of reading, or an adult learning a new skill, a person finding something to entertain themselves, there are many ways that the library benefits individuals and communities both in large and small ways.” She adds, “The library makes a difference in so many ways, sometimes it’s helping with a resume or helping to upload it, so they can get a job, sometimes it’s providing information that’s vitally important, sometimes it’s sparking a passion for something new. But a lot of times it’s just being that human contact that someone needs,” Koch shares. “Actually, having someone know your name and giving you that friendly smile when you walk in.”

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