Cranford History

Cranford Public Library History

The Cranford Public Library is over 100 years old and has a rich history. You can use the collection right now or continue reading about the Library’s early history and development.

In 1871, Cranford was incorporated as a township.

In 1880, the Cranford Library Organization, a subscription library, was founded.  Five years later, in 1895, the Library Organization, was short on funds, and gave its entire 1,061 volume collection to the Wednesday Morning Club, a philanthropic organization, which then formed the Cranford Circulating and Subscription Library.

In 1907, three women’s clubs, the Wednesday Morning Club, the Village Improvement Association, and the Progress Club founded the Cranford Free Public Library Association. The Association’s sole mission was the creation of a free, non-subscription library.

Through the important efforts of this Association, a referendum was put forth to establish a tax-supported public library. The Voters of Cranford passed the referendum.   What is interesting about this timing is that the women in the women’s clubs did no have the right to vote; women did not earn the right to vote until 1920.

1908 was an important year in the Library’s history, because in December, the Township Committee appointed the Trustees under whose direction the library would operate.


That same year the town submitted a request to Andrew Carnegie for funds to help build the library.  Mr. Carnegie, a wealthy industrialist was passionate about libraries and was instrumental in helping build many libraries.  In 1908, a $10,000 check from the Carnegie Foundation arrived.


Carnegie’s larger contribution to libraries is significant. An immigrant to the United States, Andrew Carnegie helped establish libraries all over the world between the years of 1881 and 1917.  While the first he financed was in Scotland, the country of his birth, most of them were here in the United States, 1,681 of them to be exact.  He spent $56,136,430 building 2,507 libraries. The state of New Jersey received help from Mr. Carnegie in building 36 libraries.  Five were constructed in Union County, New Jersey where Cranford is located: Westfield 1904, Summit 1909, Elizabeth (2 buildings) and Cranford both in 1910.

In 1910, a library building, financed in part by the Carnegie Fund, was erected on Miln Street.  A white-columned structure, it looked more like a Southern mansion than a typical Carnegie library.  Cranford’s population at the time was 3,641.

Monday August 15th 1910 marked opening day for Cranford’s new library.

In 1924, a 20 by 40 foot addition was constructed in order to accommodate the town’s growing population and the library’s growing collection.

In 1930 the library’s first telephone was installed.

In 1942, during World War II the library served as a Defense Council Information Center. That spring, a victory book drive yielded 2,199 books for soldiers.

Throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s the library struggled to meet the challenges of a growing community.  These challenges included not only an expanding population, but also, heavier reference demands, in an undersized, antiquated building.  A survey conducted in 1955 by the State Bureau of Public and School Library Services pointed to the inadequacy of the Library as to size of staff, facilities and book stock.

This survey formed the basis for the Library Board’s recommendations to the Township Committee in coming years.

In 1962, thanks to support from the Township Committee and the Library Board, a new library building was erected on Walnut Avenue, the library’s present site.  At the time the Library’s collection numbered 33,933 volumes.

By the end of 1975, the collection had reached 81,509 volumes in a building designed for 75,000.

Since 1962 many new media formats have been added to the collection, among them, phonograph records, large print books, musical and instructional audiocassettes, videocassettes, books-on-tape, books-on-compact disc, books-on-MP3, e-books, musical compact discs, DVDs, and CD-ROM programs.


Another significant date in the library’s history is 1979; this was the  year the Friends of the Cranford Public Library was formed.  The Friends, who support the library through funding and volunteer efforts, have had a major positive influence on the library ever since.

A pivotal technology change occurred in 1982, when the library acquired its first computer for public use in 1982.

In November 1991 the library’s main operations–cataloging, circulation and the public access catalogue–were all automated.

With the support of the Township Committee and the Library Board, the Library underwent its second major construction project since the completion of the new library building in 1962. A two-phase project, phase one was the building of a new community center adjoining the library building’s north side, and phase two was the renovation/expansion of the Library. The community center, which opened in the summer of 2000, was erected on the library parking lot.  A new parking lot for both the community center and the library was built on the south side of the library.   Once the community center was completed, the library moved its operations to rooms on the first floor of the community center, so that work could proceed on the library building.  Beginning in July 2000, the library was completely renovated and partially reconfigured, and an elevator and new 5,400 square foot second floor were added.

The library officially re-opened in its refurbished space on June 2, 2002. The project was financed in part by a $400,000 grant administered by the New Jersey State Library, while the Friends of the Library raised more than $50,000 toward the purchase of new public furniture.

Today the library collection is over 105,000 items.  The library has many personal computers available to the public and it offers wireless Internet access.   In addition, the library has a Web site, which offers round the clock access to patron and includes access to a wide array of library services and proprietary databases.

100th Anniversary of the Library – Annual Report


The Cranford Library Today….stop by and check it out.

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