Arts & Entertainment

Friends of the South Plainfield Public Library to Commemorate 55th Anniversary at March 23 Meeting

Miss Catherine Pendola (standing) addressing the first meeting of the proposed Friends of the Library, which took place at Grant School on March 23, 1962. Credits: South Plainfield History Society

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Back on March 23, 1962, a small group gathered at Grant School for what was to be the first meeting of the Friends of the South Plainfield Public Library. This Thursday, the Friends will mark its 55th anniversary with a special meeting scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. in the library’s multipurpose room.

“We encourage residents to come to this special meeting of the Friends of the South Plainfield Public Library,” said Director Linda Hansen. “The Friends are a wonderful organization and their work helps to support the programs, collections, and equipment that make our library so important to the community.”

Back in 1962, Borough of South Plainfield did not have a freestanding library to call its own and the Friends, under the leadership of librarian Catherine Pendola and with the support of the library’s board of trustees, had a mission: convince then Mayor Robert Baldwin and the council to make building a new, freestanding library a top priority.

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That goal was achieved on March 14, 1965 with the official dedication and opening of the South Plainfield Memorial Library at its current location on Plainfield Avenue. Several decades then passed with the Friends being somewhat defunct but, in the early 1990s, the non-profit saw a rebirth under the leadership of former director Sunnie Randolph, residents Natalie and Jim Bergen, and Ed Greenfield.  

Today, the Friends serve as advocates for the development, expansion and improvement of library collections, facilities and services to patrons and, according to its mission statement, ‘library excellence is the most important item on the Friends' agenda.”

“We are a group dedicated to supporting the library through advocacy, volunteer services, and fundraising,” said Stephanie Bonanno, current president of the Friends, noting that the goal of the organization is to ‘continue the mission implemented decades ago.” We are dedicated to seeing the library remain a vital resource in the community.”

To raise funds, the Friends run a combined book and bake sale twice a year (spring and fall), conduct an ongoing Gertrude Hawk candy bar sale, and raffles, including the one for a handmade quilt that is currently under way. The Friends are currently gearing by for the spring book and bake sale, which will take place on Saturday, May 13, and are also looking to launch a buy-a-brick campaign as well as continue the shelf sponsor program established last year following the library renovation and expansion.

Through its fundraising efforts, the group supports the library’s annual Read Across America/Dr. Seuss program, and last year, contributed to the official grand re-opening celebration and the 2016 Fall Festival. The Friends also sponsor the library’s Museum Pass Program as well as special adult and children’s events and programs throughout the year. Additionally, following the library renovation and expansion last year, monies from the Friends were used to purchase furnishings for the children’s room, including the circulation desk and play table.

“The goal is to fundraise so that we can support the library and its role in the community. We try to fund things that are outside the realm of the library’s normal budget,” said Bonanno, who prior to serving on the Friends was a member of the South Plainfield Library Board. “While there may be circumstances and areas of need that we cannot address, we work to help as much possible.”

According to Bonanno, the Friends are currently looking to raise the funds to purchase a self-checkout machine for the library. “That is our goal right now,” she said.

The Friends of the South Plainfield Library is run by a four-member board that includes Bonanno (president), Chrissy Lee (vice president), Francesca Merendino (treasurer), and Alberta Esposito (secretary) and comprised of 20 active and lifetime members. An annual membership is $10 (family), $7.50 (individual), and $5 (senior) with sponsor memberships ($25) and lifetime memberships ($100) also available. Additionally, anyone who joins between now and March 31, 2017 will receive an 18-month membership (expiring Aug. 31, 2018). Meetings re held every fourth Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. in the library’s multipurpose room.

“We are always looking for new people and ideas to help us continue our goal,” said Bonanno.

Those interested in joining the Friends of the South Plainfield Public Library, may download a membership form by visiting or obtain one at the library. Tax deductible donations are also welcomed; checks, payable to the ‘Friends of the South Plainfield Free Public Library, Inc., can be dropped off at or mailed to the library Inc. Donations can also be made online at For additional information, visit or call (908) 754-7885.

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