Surf City — The Long Beach Island branch of the Ocean County Library in Surf City will host a commemoration for its 30th anniversary on Tuesday, May 7, at 10 a.m. Former branch manager Linda Feaster will present the history of the branch and the Friends of the Island Library, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary.
Feaster said the Ocean County Library System opened its doors in Toms River in September 1925, but there were no branches. That changed in 1956, when Long Beach Township officials, with the help of the Rotary Club of Long Beach Island, got a 20- by 20-foot room in the township municipal building that became the first branch of the OCL.
“The county provided both books and library staff, and it was open every day except Sunday in the summer and one day a week in the winter,” said Feaster. “There were 3,500 books available, and many other titles could be requested from the main branch in Toms River. Yet that room was quickly outgrown; there was no room for tables and chairs, and customers to read or do reference work.”
In 1959, the Friends group formed, drew up a constitution and bylaws, developed membership and took donations in the early months of the year. They searched for land, noting the library should be centrally located on the Island. The big break came on May 19, 1959, when Oliver and Josephine Cox offered to give the Friends a 40- by 100-foot lot on West 16th Street in Ship Bottom.
“This development really got things moving, and donations began rolling in – donations of not only money, but labor, architectural plans, legal services and building material,” said Feaster.
After seven months of organizing and planning, the trenches were dug for the foundation on Aug. 25, 1959. On Aug. 22, a ceremony was held and the cornerstone was dedicated to Josephine Thomas, a strong supporter of the library, who Feaster said had passed away the week before. Her life was chronicled in a book written by her daughter, Margaret Thomas Buchholz of Harvey Cedars, titled Josephine: From Washington Working Girl to Fisherman’s Wife.
“Yet, within 10 years, what had been considered spacious at 1,750 square feet that should house a recommended 10,000 to 15,000 (books) contained more than 20,000 books and had become the third busiest branch in the system,” said Feaster.
Eventually, the Friends had to obtain a larger facility, an effort that began in the early 1980s. She recalled the towns paid for a study in 1985 concluding that the Island library was by all standards inadequate for the population. It made recommendations for a larger facility to be built. Ground was broken for the library’s current site on March 15, 1988, and the doors to the 7,000-square-foot building opened on May 7, 1989.
Unlike the branches on the mainland, the LBI facility is in a seasonal location.
“July and August are our biggest months, when we see an average of 400 people a day,” said Feaster.
The celebration will also feature a book raffle and light refreshments.
“We’re planning on having an anniversary cake,” she said.
For more information on the anniversary celebration, call the branch at 609-494-2480.