The Princeton Public Library is the Community Living Room
The Princeton Public Library in Princeton, NJ recently reached a milestone, and celebrated its 100th birthday this past October! This was a major event, in which local dignitaries joined in on the celebration.
There were bands and choirs on hand to provide musical entertainment; storybook characters came to life to greet young children and posed with them for photos; the Princeton Tour Company provided tours of downtown Princeton; kids walked on stilts and juggled to amaze the crowds; merchants offered free samples of their goods, and cupcakes and an amazing cake designed to look like a stack of books were on it along with drinks were served to attendees. Fun was had by all! The Princeton Library has served the community very well in the past 100 years.
Looking back to when I first entered the library in 2001, it had a dated appearance, and all I knew about the programing was they held a story hour for children in which snacks were provided. The following year, the Princeton Library temporarily moved their organization from the heart of town to a location further north in the Princeton Shopping Center, while the old building was knocked down and totally re-built from the ground up. In 2004 the doors opened to much applause. I was extremely impressed with the facilities, and was curious about events that would take place in the new building.
The Princeton Public Library increased their programing, and it was more than I could ever imagine for a library. There is something offered for everyone. Like in most libraries, there are story times for the kids, but they also have programs specifically for teens, parents, retirees, the unemployed, women and more! I usually try not to boast about things, but I’m sorry, I have to brag about the Princeton Library. This is a place where teens LOVE to hang out. I had a few hangouts as a teen, but it was NEVER the library, and I was a bit of a geek. Out of all fairness, we didn’t have computers in libraries back in my teen days, but the teens aren’t flocking there for the computers, even though there are about 100 of them throughout the facility for patron use, and of course, free wi-fi. I believe the programming is luring them there.
The mastermind behind all this good stuff is program coordinator Janie Hermann. She has helped turn the library into a community living room. Having three fireplaces and cozy seating certainly adds to the ambiance of the communal spaces. Both residents and non-residents gather here for the most amazing events. There is something happening every single day, and often several events per day. Janie told me there are at least 1,600 programs currently running, which is a lot for a library of this size in a town of this population.
Ms. Hermann has teamed up with the Terra Momo Restaurant Group to bring Chef Chris Albrecht to the library to give cooking lessons, and Master Baker Denis Granarolo to give baking lessons. YES, Albrecht actually cooks in a library with no working kitchen! He brings portable electric burners with him. Granarolo has to bring in the finished product from the Witherspoon Bread Company across the street from the library. My friend Katie DeVito formed the LinkedIn group NJ Unemployed, and then developed a website for it, and she teamed up with Janie to host a series of networking breakfasts, and has brought in guest speakers Dale Caldwell and Jim Donovan. The library hosts an amazing teen film and video festival as well and an environmental film festival; they show the soccer World Cup games on the big screen; there are technology workshops for retirees, and there is the ever popular summer reading program for kids, teens and adults. Recently, the Princeton Public Library streamed live footage of the TEDWomen event (TED = talks in the fields of Technology, Entertainment, and Design) and piggybacked their own TEDx Princeton Library event to it (the x = an independently organized TED event), with guest speakers Jill Foster, Hilary Morris, Holly Landau, Katie DeVito and Melissa Klepacki, and entertainment by singer/songwriter Sarah Donner. Earlier this year they hosted the TEDx NJ LIbrary event. These programs encourage lots of community engagement, and were a huge success!
Other cool programs include the Museum Pass, giving you access to 10 museums in Philly and mostly NYC gratis, free music downloads through Freegal, loaners of Kindle 2/Sony Reader/Flip video & Garmin GPS units, lots of clubs, and open tech time to get hard & software assistance. Concerts, movies, authors, musicians, professors, business executives, tech gurus and more have informed and entertained the Princeton community at the library. The best part is, the Princeton Library welcomes all with open arms, but priority is always given to cardholders for most programs due to limited seating. Non-residents can apply for a card at the Princeton Library for a nominal to moderate fee, but it is totally worth it when you consider all the library has to offer.
The Princeton Public Library has an amazing staff. Five staff members won individual Movers & Shavers awards. The ALA awarded the library’s Friends of the Princeton Public Library with a fundraising award. Leslie Burger, the library director, was the NJLA President back in 2004 and the ALA President in 2006, and the marketing department has received state and national awards. This award-winning library works hard to anticipate its patrons’ needs, so it’s no wonder it’s a popular place to be.
Janie Hermann is doing a fantastic job of making decisions resposibile for turning the building into the largest community living room, and in some cases, kitchen, in the area, if not in the entire state of New Jersey. I’ll even risk saying this is one of the best libraries in the entire country! I know I’m bragging again, but if you have ever been to the Princeton Library, you’d agree, and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? If you don’t have a card yet, sign up for one whether you’re a resident or not, and come see what all the praise is about. But just a warning to non-residents, once you’ve come to the Princeton Public Library, it’ll be hard to return to your own! Yes, I’m bragging AGAIN!