Monday, October 24, 2011

The East Orange Library System Makes National News: 1961

The Stockton neighborhood didn't have its own library. Several school and recreation reports between 1910 and 1945 recommended the expansion of the school toward The Oval with a community library as part of the mix but it never happened.


But we were only a half-mile from both the Ampere Library and the Main Library, and some of my earliest memories were of my mother pushing me to the Ampere Library in my stroller in the late 1940's so she could stock up on the murder mysteries she loved to read. The Ampere branch was much less imposing than the Main Library and, unlike the Main, there were no hills to deal with to get there, so it was also my library of choice when I started going by myself. In the late 1950's my mother was once again pushing the stroller to the Ampere Library with my younger brother. Libraries have always been very important to our family.


We moved from the neighborhood in December, 1959 to SC, but in February, 1961 I was excited to see the East Orange Library system make national news... newspapers, magazines, and tv: people with overdue books who had ignored letters and even court summonses were arrested at their homes. Life magazine carried the story as a spoof with these mocking dramatic photos:

                                                 Above: Harold Roth, Library director

       




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Below: from a 4/4/1961 newspaper







Three years later, the East Orange Library made news again:

July 25, 1964; New York Times

East Orange Issues Orders to Arrest Library Laggards

EAST ORANGE. N. J., July 24—Magistrate Peter A. Wil­liams issued warrants today for the arrest of 26 persons who have failed to return books to the public library here.EAST ORANGE. N. J., July 24—Magistrate Peter A. Wil­liams issued warrants today for the arrest of 26 persons who have failed to return books to the public library here. City detectives were instruc­ted to talk to the borrowers by phone and ask that they sur­render at police headquarters. Failure to do so will mean ar­rest. The handling of today's war­rants will be more temperate than methods employed three years ago, when the police routed 14 delinquent borrowers from their beds late at night and jailed several in lieu of $100 bail. This time, Mayor James W. Kelly Jr. has Ordered that ar­rests be made between 8 A.M. and 8 P.M. The warrants issued today charge the borrowers, who have ignored three warning letters from the library and a court summons, with contempt of court. Officials say that the 26 borrowers owe a total of $600 in fines on almost 80 books. According to Harold L. Roth, director of the library, the ar­rests in 1961 solved the prob­lem of overdue books only tem­porarily. At that time, those for whom bench warrants were is­sued were ultimately fined $25 for contempt of court, ordered to return the delinquent books and pay the accumulated fines.

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