The Morris County Library Celebrates 100 yearsJun 20, 2022 12:41PM ● By Steve Sears
The Morris County Library (credit: Darren O’Neill)
The Morris County Library has come a long way in 100 years.
Initially operating out of three rooms at Morristown’s Morris County Courthouse, and with a book truck that delivered reading material to various locations throughout the county, the memories are a lot to celebrate with Library Director, Darren O’Neill, his staff, and the residents who enjoy the library’s vast array of current services.
O’Neill first started as a supervising librarian in 2006, was named chief librarian in 2014, became Assistant Director in 2017, and since 2020 has served as Library Director. On average, about 15,000 people annually stream through the doors of the Morris County Library, but that number has been slightly lower as the pandemic slowly moves out of the area. “People are just getting themselves acclimated to coming back out and being comfortable in public spaces,” O’Neill says. “But up until the time of the pandemic, we had on average about 15,000 visitors per year, and that would be a mix of people coming in to pick up their holds, borrow material directly, maybe to use our meeting room facilities or study rooms, or whatever. But a lot of activity.”
“In the fall of 1921, the voters of Morris County decided to put their own forth to support a county library,” O’Neill says. “And at that time, Morris County was predominantly rural. There were very few public libraries. Most of them were reading rooms, if you will, that were staffed by volunteers. There was a real need to have a central source to provide library services, and so that vote in 1921 was an important one. By the time everything was settled and a director was hired in July of 1922 is when the county library kind of first came into being. That need, as it was 100 years ago, is still critical, because the scope of the collection that we have here and the scope of the services that we offer, the size of our staff, the facility itself, all of it, in my humble estimation, far outshines anything that you would find elsewhere.”
For the first five months of the year, the Morris County Library devoted its space to adult music programming, and a special Morris Authors Day was held on Saturday, June 4. “We maintain a collection here of material written by authors from Morris County,” O’Neill explains. “We've maintained this collection for a number of years, and today we have quite a few prestigious authors who live around here. Many years ago, we had a very large get together and gathering for all of our authors to come in and meet one another. The person who ran that and curated the collection retired, and it took a few days to find somebody to take over, but thankfully we have and she put together this event for Saturday, June 4.” At the end of June, the library kicks off its annual summer reading program. “Every summer we have a summer reading program that's run through our children's department, and it's basically two months long and we have a number of events where performers who come in. In addition, the children log reading hours, and at the end of the summer, whoever has the most reading hours gets a prize. All of this is supported through the Morris County Library Foundation. So that's a great thing for the kids over the summer, and on Friday the 24th is the kickoff celebration for that. As we roll into September, we're going to continue with the kids programming, but then by the time we get into October, we're going to return to some adult music.”
The music will continue into the big month of November, and on Saturday, November 19, the library will hold its all-day event gala at the library itself. O’Neill adds, “We'll have some guest speakers; the president of our library foundation, and hopefully one of the commissioners will come and speak.” One thing O’Neill would like to see is the public at the library, to make sure that they are aware of the fact that it is the centennial year. “November is the month here, historically speaking, in regard to the voters of Morris County deciding that they wanted to support a county library,” he says. “We actually opened our doors at this facility on November 18, 1968, so it'll be a nice time in November to bring all that together. That afternoon, as part of the adult performance, I've got a string quintet coming in from New York City, and they're going to perform Franz Schubert's ‘Cello Quintet.’”
The Morris County Library is located at 30 East Hanover Avenue in Whippany. Visit www.mclib.info for information about the library as well as a schedule of events for its centennial. To view photos of the library through the years, visit its hosted "The Archive Project" page, www.mcldig6930.omeka.net/.