RANDOLPH, NJ – Friends, family and council members gathered in the meeting room of the library on Saturday to celebrate library director Anita Freeman’s retirement.
“Her dedication to the library started when she was hired,” said Roy Squillario, president of the library board, “when during the salary negotiation she agreed to take the job only if they reduced her salary by $1,000 and bought books with that $1,000.”
He mentioned that Freeman led the way on many of the program improvements and services offered by the library, such as the children’s story time, summer concerts, book clubs for all ages, free WiFi, a notary service, scanners and copiers.
“Under Anita’s guidance our collection has grown from 35,000 to 135,000,” Squillario said. “She’s been a thought leader, a manager, and a supporter of this library and our town. She’s tackled the big jobs and the little ones with gusto.”
Mayor Christine Carey, a long-time library volunteer and board member, shared comments in honor of Freeman, as well.
“Back when I was a kid, I had two brothers and two sisters, and the only thing my parents could really afford to do was send us to the library,” Carey began. “The first thing I did when I moved here in 1992 was come over to the library… and I just love this place.”
Carey referenced the major changes in libraries overall during the past 36 years and commented that Randolph Library has become more of a community center by offering many programs for the residents.
“Half of all Randolph residents use the library,” Carey said, adding that the library received 110,000 visits last year. “I’m not sure that there’s anything else that can say that.”
Not only has Freeman dedicated time to the library, but she volunteered in other aspects of the community. Carey shared that Freeman participated in girl scouts, basketball and the Kiwanis.
“You’ve made the library a jewel in our township,” Carey concluded.
Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen was unable to attend, as he was in Washington D.C. for the inauguration, but sent a citation from the House of Representatives and an American flag that had flown over the House.
The citation read, “She is hereby congratulated for her service to the Randolph Township Public Library… Her tremendous work transformed the library and enhanced the Randolph community.”
Township Manager Stephen Mountain remembered Freeman’s passion for libraries when he began working in Randolph in 1992.
“When my son, who is now 22, was born, we were not residents of Randolph at that time, and she made sure we had a library card and encouraged my wife to bring my son to the library,” Mountain said. “She was always very welcoming to our family using the library even though we weren’t residents.”
“When you think back on 36 years, very rarely do you see anybody, in this day and age, stay in an organization for that length of time,” he continued. “There are a lot of towns that their library facilities have not kept up with the change, and unfortunately for a variety of reasons remain much like the facility that this library was in… Not only did Randolph’s library move out of that location, but it evolved several times in this location.”
Freeman shared her own favorite projects and renovations, particularly the children’s section. She always hired children’s librarians who had a vision to decorate a special place for the children.
Her wanted to provide a place besides home, school or church where parents would feel comfortable spending time with their children.
“Some of my favorite jobs in this library were the construction. I’m going to miss construction. I’m going to miss putting up a new gazebo out there,” Freeman said. “We were very fortunate to have the wherewithal to continue to do the improvements in this library.”
“And I’m going to miss you all, but I’ll be happy to be a card-carrying borrower,” she said and listeners laughed. “And I’ll be bringing my little grandchild to story time.”