Arts & Entertainment

South Orange Public Library Celebrates 150th Birthday, Looks to the Future

Mark Miller, South Orange Public Library Board, at the 150th Birthday Bash.
South Orange Village President Sheena Collumaddresses the crowd at the SOPL 150th Birthday Bash.
L to R: Walter Clarke, Deborah Davis Ford, Sheena Collum, and Steve Schnall.
Britnee Timberlake, President of the Essex County Freeholders.
L to R: Britnee Timberlake and Mark Miller.
Melissa Kopecky, Director, South Orange Public Library
Connett Memorial Library

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The community came out to celebrate the South Orange Public Library's 150th birthday on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 17. Library and local officials spoke to the crowd, and plenty of music created a festive mood for the celebration that took place both inside the library and outside in the parking lot.

There were lots of activities for party-goers young and old, including party hats, cupcakes, historical photos, arts-and-crafts and tours of the historic Connett Memorial Library building, which served as South Orange's library for 75 years. 

Mark Miller of the South Orange Public Library Board welcomed the crowd and shared why libraries are so important, emphasizing that there is "much more to a library than a collection of books," as they create a "world of wonder," and "a place for community."

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Deborah Davis Ford, the Trustee Liaison to the library, addressed the crowd and thanked the library volunteers, and praised the library for being a "jewel in the crown of South Orange."

South Orange Village President Sheena Collum, and Village Trustees Deborah Davis Ford, Walter Clarke and Steve Schnall all joined the celebration as well.

Britnee Timberlake, president of the Essex County Freeholders, congratulated the South Orange Library on "150 years of changing lives" and for welcoming people of all backgrounds, ethnicities and economic groups. 

During a tour of the Connett Memorial Library building, there was discussion of building renovations, and how the space could serve the community in the future. The Connett building is a designated "key building in the Montrose Historic District" and Library Director Melissa Kopecky said that there is "no intention other than to restore it," and to use it as a community space of "meeting and greeting," and creating "a meeting room of exactly the size that doesn't exist anywhere else" in South Orange.

The larger question of the role of libraries in general was discussed, and how libraries are continually evolving for the future." As South Orange Village Trustee Walter Clarke explained, the "modern library really is a community gathering space." 

Several officials mentioned plans to transform the current library into one that can serve South Orange for "another 150 years," and designs were on display that showed possible renovations to the library that would create a space utilizing both the current library building and the Connett Memorial Library building. Funding plans are still under consideration, and Miller stated that most likely monies would be raised through a combination of private and public support.

As the Birthday Bash showed, the South Orange Public Library is much more than just books, and a place where the community can come together today, and for another 150 years.

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