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Montclair Public Library Launches Annual Fundraiser

Literary figures will also be featured in a essay series entitled, 'My First Chapter.'

The Montclair Public Library Foundation has launched its annual fundraising campaign.

Due to continuing declines in budgetary funds, the library has set this year’s goal at $200,000. In addition, the library will publish an essay series entitled, "My First Chapter," each week written by different literary figures. The first installment can be found below. 

“Additional funding is needed to enable the library to meet contemporary expectations for library services in a rapidly evolving social and technological environment”, said library Director David Hinkley in a press release.

“To add to this challenge, our ongoing level of municipal funding remains very uncertain. The library looks to supplemental private monies to fund high demand weekend hours, meet shortfalls in the hard hit collection budget, and replace aging technology.”

Hinkley noted the library's willingness to incur the additional costs and the burden on a much reduced staff associated with extending hours at the Bellevue Branch and keeping the main library open around the clock in the weeks and days following Super Storm Sandy. 

Over 15,000 visitors  -- more than double the usual number -- came to work, used the Wi-Fi, enjoy movies, stayed connected, kept warm and found respite at both library locations during the first week of the aftermath.

"The importance of the Montclair Public Library, and its true role as a center of the community for all residents, was eminently on display in the aftermath of the hurricane," said Frank Lawatsch, president of the library's Board of Trustees.

Donations to the Library may be made by check to the Montclair Public Library Foundation, at 50 S. Fullerton Ave., or online at the foundation's website, montclairplf.org. For more information, call (973) 744-0500, ext. 2222. 

This week's installment of "My First Chapter" features David Carr. 

When my family moved from Washington D.C. in 2000, we did, as many people did, feasibility visits on where we might live. Staten Island was cheap, but horrible commute, Brooklyn had its charms, but not many places that we could afford that would accommodate five of us. Astoria seemed good for the adults, not great for the kids, and while Westchester County had its charms, the lack of sidewalks and actual towns left us still searching.

And then we came to Montclair. Midwesterners by birth and nature, the trees, the variety of housing, the schools and the abundant small retail made us feel at home. And then we noticed that there were two libraries, a small branch uptown and a big, fulsome one downtown. As both an amenity and measure of civilization, it sort of sealed the deal.

My daughter Erin, a mad reader and watcher, spent a lot of time at the uptown branch and made liberal use of the drop box out front, although not always in a timely manner. (Sorry about that, library people.)

And on weekend days when we were at loose ends, we would spend time downtown, upstairs and down, in the racks and in the videos. The patience and expertise of the staff and their clear passion for making a third place full of reference and fiction, the useful and the wondrous, made the hours go by quickly and happily.

I was a kid who spent a lot of time in libraries, getting on running tears in reading. The Hardy Boys, S.E. Hinton, and later, the young adult delights of Salinger. I filled my head with words to the point where when they began spilling out of me later as a writer, it seemed very much a natural extension of the time spent pouring over books I had found in the stacks. I am a writer because I was and am a reader.

Many libraries have lost vitality over time, as the Web and its blandishments have sucked away younger users, but I have always noticed when I walk in to ours that all kinds of people – young, old, natty and not – show up and are comfortable there.

And Montclair has not run away from the Web, but embraced with a variety of useful databases, information about the best ways to use the collection and tools for booking rooms for groups and events.

Our older girls have grown up and gone to college, but their younger sister did as they did, working her way through books that her mother brought home for her and then, when the time came, checking them out herself. And when she is downtown and has time to kill between the relentless academic, athletic and social schedule that is teen life in Montclair, it is a deep pleasure to get a text that she is at the library. It’s not that Starbucks doesn’t have value, but there is something about comforting and quietly exciting about having your kid choose to spend her time in a room full of books.

Like all towns in an era of deep financial challenges, Montclair has faced its fiscal challenges. Library hours have been tweaked and other services have been down-sized, but whenever I bring people here, I always make a point of showing them that we have those third places, places where words still rule and the imaginations of the people who work and visit there are free to frolic.

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