By Willa Mae Levy, Acting Director January 1975.
The municipal library of Hillsdale, New Jersey, had its beginning as an association library in 1935. The township was formed in 1898 and previously had not possessed a library. It was not until a W.P.A. class in public speaking conducted by Elsie Hubachek (who was later a councilwoman) that support for a library took root and began to grow. A member of the class, Sarah Vander Clute, spoke on the subject of books. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and at that moment the decision to form a town library was made. Members of the class formed a committee and met with local citizens. Judge Walter J. McIntyre, an attorney, who subsequently served as a trustee for 35 years until his retirement in 1970, gave legal advice and was chairman of the public meeting. Judge McIntyre chose six library trustees and a library association, with a membership fee of one dollar, was formed. A vacant store on the main street was rented. Members of the library worked to get the building in order, washing windows, scrubbing floors, mending and cataloging books, building bookshelves. Books were donated from everywhere, including a loan collection from the State Library. Gifts and proceeds from card parties, movie benefits, and a play, The Haunted House, given by the Hillsdale Players, kept the project on its feet. The Free Public Library was opened to the people of the town on January 27, 1936. In eight months the number of borrowers was 752, a good representation from a total population of approximately 3100.
Halloween 1937: The library was first located in the building now occupied by Hillsdale Paint.
At the first annual meeting of the Library Association, on September 29, 1936, Judge McIntyre offered the library as a debt-free gift to the Borough of Hillsdale. The question of borough support was brought before the voters in a referendum in November, 1936, and support was approved by a vote of 1,053 to 330. The library was officially turned over to the town on January 1, 1937, for the sum of $1.00. There were 4,257 books which circulated to 853 borrowers at the rate of about 2,000 a month.
The first officers of the Board of Trustees of the Hillsdale Free Public
Library were Walter J. McIntyre, President; William W. Livengood, Vice-President;
Elsie Bessell, Secretary; and Walter W. Hoffman, Treasurer. The first librarian
was Mrs. John Newman, appointed on November 24, 1935. Mrs. Newman served
as librarian until April, 1956, and was the first president of the Small
Libraries Group (1949).
The second location of the library was in the Leddy Building, pictured here in 1909. It is now the location of the present day Wendy’s building. (photo courtesy of Pascack Valley Historical Society)
The Trustees attempted to interest the borough officials in acquiring
vacant land for a building as early as June 2, 1937, but funds were not
available. On February 1, 1938, the library leased two stores and moved
in. Severe leaks in one side of the building, however, and lack of stack
space were handicaps. The need for larger quarters became critical as the
In 1953, following the death of Jenner R. Fast, Robert L. Wotten was
appointed to the Board. From that date until 1970 the Trustees were: Walter
J. McIntyre, Marion E. Wicks, Dorothy H. Ward, Herman J. Drenning, and
Mr. Wotton. Mrs. Ward was appointed President of the Board upon retirement
of Judge McIntyre in 1970.
In January 1956, Mayor John F. Dowd cast the deciding vote to provide funds to the
Trustees for the purchase of the Vorrath property on Hillsdale Avenue.
Remodeling of the old farmhouse was planned by architect Carl Kemm Loven,
and the move was made in March, 1957.
Mrs. Edward Unser was appointed librarian to succeed Mrs. Newman on
November 1, 1958. The book collection numbered 24,219 volumes and the 1959
circulation was 53,267. Total borrowers numbered 3,871, 52% of the population.
Mrs. J.B. Bintner was library director from 1960-1962, when Mrs. Unser
returned. After Mrs. Unser’s departure in 1966, Mrs. C.D. Lucas was library
director until 1972. Mrs. Ivan L. Levy is serving as the acting director
In 1965, the library became a recipient of the reference services offered
by the Ridgewood Free Public Library, the area reference library. In November,
1971, the library became affiliated with the Pascack Valley Library Group.
State Incentive Grant funds are enabling the organization of a cassette
center at Hillsdale.
Groundbreaking for the construction of an addition which tripled the size of the Vorrath farmhouse took place October 31, 1970, and the new facilities were dedicated on June 25, 1972. Despite the delays and trials of the building program, circulation for 1972 was 67,295, a new high, and 2/3 of the population, 8,000, were registered borrowers. Per capita circulation was 5.5 (based on 1972 estimated population of 12,000).
With its recently added space, which was sorely needed, the Hillsdale Free Public Library looks forward to providing more library services to its community.
Hubachek, Elsie M. “Unexpected outcome.” Journal of Adult Education, October, 1938, pp. 426-9.
Ward, Dorothy H. “History.” Dedication Program, Hillsdale Free Public Library, June 25, 1972. (Pamphlet)
The Hillsdale Library recently underwent a major renovation / addition project from March 2003 to May 2006.