East Hanover Public Library: A True Hidden Gem

By: Stefanie Sears


East Hanover Public Library has been a staple of East Hanover and a piece of the town’s history since 1923. Since then, they have undergone plenty of renovations. 


It began as a branch of Morris County Library in Mrs. LeMoyne Burliegh’s home in 1923 until 1958. Because the Township of East Hanover began to grow its population, a need for a more substantial library unfolded. When the girl scouts got involved by organizing the collection of books, the library gradually began to flourish. The Whippany Construction Company even donated a little two-room house, which became the library’s new home. Originally located at the Restland Memorial Park, it was moved to behind the Municipal Building on Ridgedale Avenue. The Girl Scouts operated the library during this time.


Burliegh’s daughter, Mrs. Leighton Speer, raised money for the library and began operating it in 1958. In 1962, the library outgrew its two-room compartment, so it was moved to the Town Hall Annex until it then outgrew this space in 1964. In 1968 it relocated once again into a former meeting room of the old Town Municipal Building. Due to constant expansion and funds saved over the years, in 1978 the Library commissioned an expansion feasibility study by Witfield & Remnick Architects, which was approved January 1979. In 1980, the old firehouse building became available for the library after the Fire Department vacated and the Library decided to proceed without state funding. Construction eventually began in March 1983.


“She was a dynamic, very interesting woman & a member of the DAR,” says Gayle Carlson of Speer.


Carlson, the Library Director for 20 years, started out as a page when she was a student. Given the amount of years she has given the library her services, she has seen a lot of history within its walls.


One example is the statue stood outside of a mother reading to her children on a bench. About 10 years ago, this was purchased through donations dedicated to the late Roberta Anzalone, who used to bring her children to the library often.


“It just shows connections to the town and people’s connections to the library,” says Carlson.


Another example is when the children’s librarian of 20 years, Nancy Svorinich (who was fondly known as Mrs. S.) passed away last year. According to Carlson, Svorinich very much positively influenced the East Hanover library community. 


“She basically brought children’s services to East Hanover,” she explains, “We went from someone reading a book or a picture book to activities and puppets and arts and crafts and music. One of the things she brought that was really cool was a bubble machine. The kids loved it. She turned it on with the music and the kids would just dance through the bubbles. That was innovative.”


As technology and current events evolve, libraries evolve right with them. One advancement East Hanover Public Library is using is the Morris Automatic Information Network (MAIN), a financially beneficial network that shares resources and services for patrons to be able to download materials to their personal devices. 


“The Library’s goal is to keep current with emerging trends, advances in technology and meet the community’s need for services and resources,” says Carlson.


Another benefit that the library offers is wireless printing called PrinterOn, which is a Cloud service. After downloading the app, you can conveniently send your document to the closest library to print it out.


“The technology we have here is so state of the art. It’s up to date. Our computers are updated and software is updated regularly.”


There is often the constant question of whether or not libraries and physical books are becoming obsolete due to the ever-changing technology. However, it depends on the patrons and what they are looking for.


“It’s always changing. My favorite quote is, ‘We’re not just books,’” says Carlson, “People who do not use libraries think libraries are just books. We have programs, we have computers, we have wireless access. There’s downloadable material, whether it is a magazine or book, audio, visual. We loan DVDs, we loan music, CDs. There’s a lot of collections and a lot overlap. A lot of depending on what people prefer.”


Although many libraries serve their locals similarly, Carlson says that East Hanover’s customer services stands out.


“Probably every library would say that about themselves, but we get to know our patrons and their families. They come to the circ desk to check out materials but they also would have a conversation. Staff would save a book for them because they know that would interest them. I think just knowing the community and building that personal relationship with them.”


East Hanover Public Library has a lot of popular programming, such as story hours, family night, and tutoring for the kids and book clubs, senior craft day, and museum passes for adults. For more information about these and more, patrons are encouraged to explore the library’s Facebook page for updates.


However, one issue that the library has is lack of space for public meetings.


“The biggest demand we have is public meeting space,” explains Carlson, “Various local groups are looking for a place to meet and students are looking for quiet study space. Unfortunately we cannot accommodate everyone since we have a small activity room that is primarily used for story times and library sponsored programs.”


Summer reading is now underway. This year’s theme is A Universe of Stories and there are programs based around children’s summer reading lists to make reading fun. Because the state chooses the theme, most libraries in New Jersey adhere to it. Although the kids do have their own required summer reading for school, participants for this activity choose what to read and in turn they earn credits and prizes. To kick this off, Morris Museum visited with a planetarium and were able to project the night sky onto a balloon type igloo. 


Another activity that East Hanover Public Library does to encourage reading is Paws for Reading. For this, kids read to therapy dogs at the library.


“It doesn’t matter what you read. If you want to read a magazine or something digital, it’s putting time in reading. It’s been documented that children who do not read over the summer lose reading skills. Kids backtrack in their reading abilities, so that’s why it’s good to keep them reading.”


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