MANALAPAN, NJ – The variety of programs, classes, concerts and other events offered by the Monmouth County Library was highlighted at the year end meeting of the Monmouth County Library Commission recently, showing a comprehensive list of everything from horses to jazz which have been available to all members.

“I’ve said many times that the Monmouth County Library well deserves the title of being the busiest library system in New Jersey,” said Commission chairperson Renee Swartz, in reviewing the reports from directors. “And after reviewing the variety or programs offered here and the most enthusiastic way they have been received, I would be certain it is also the most eclectic.”

The library has advanced technologically and offers iPad circulation access by staff members to check users out at the program, an e-mail link to an online catalog, document scanners at the library branches, and Kit Keeper, book discussion kits for self-service bookings. Anticipated for completion in 2016 are Phase 2 of Sirsi, the Integrated Library system, a government depository to enhance patron searchers to federal and state documents available for printing, and a Playaway Launchpad for children, a learning tablet with pre-loaded interactive apps.  

Programming Coordinator Donna Mansfield, who recently was named Branch Manager for the Manalapan branch of the library system, a position she will assume in January, presented a comprehensive overview to the library commissioners and praised the work of librarians in each of the branches for their ingenuity and enthusiasm in promoting or producing programs for all age levels and interests.

In highlighting the events held at headquarters, located on Symnes Drive, Mansfield noted the annual International Pi Day (March 14) with Albert Einstein attracted a multi-generational audience which enjoyed the mix of history and science at the library, part of the world-wide celebration of the date, 3/14 which equals pi, the Greek letter which symbolizes the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

On a lighter note, there were 22 different events in support of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, including a visit from author Charles Nurnberg, a tea at the Eastern Branch library in Shrewsbury, a play, Alice, An Adventure in Wonderland, presented by the Eagle Theater at Headquarters, and numerous skits, book displays, parties and games honoring Carroll’s works through the library system.

For the musically minded, Mansfield continued, there were nine jazz concerts and nine other concerts, including a Tribute to Fleetwood Mac, the most attended of all the musical events, and another by Tim MCLoone & The Shirleys. The centennial salute to Frank Sinatra last week was also widely attended and received with great acclaim, Mansfield said.

The report also showed the library hosted visits from President and Mrs. Abraham Lincoln and President and Mrs. US Grant in the form of a play by professional re-enactors, as well as visits from Civil War enactors who captured the music of the era is vocal and musical interpretation.

Lectures on a variety of subjects were also presented during the year, Mansfield continued, including three interactive talks with Dr. David Martin, head of the Friends of the Monmouth Battlefield, and local historian and member of the Monmouth County Historical Commission Joseph Grabas, who spoke on the 350th anniversary of the signing of the Monmouth Patent.

Historian, college professor and retired military officer Paul Zigo also presented a program on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific Theater, a program jointly sponsored by the NJ Alliance for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia (NJ-ALPHA). Also of particular interest for history buffs was continuation of the World War I Centennial Film Series through four different films, and a lecture on the Hindenburg disaster at Lakehurst in 1937.

For guests who enjoy live theater, there was a re-creation of the Grand Review of the Armies on the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, a program made possible through a grant from the N J Council for the Humanities and the NJ Civil War Heritage Association. The library was also able to enjoy a preview of a Civil War documentary, along with commentary from the write producer of the film and the composer of the music it included. Other plays, the Pulitzer prize-winning Talley’s Folly, as well as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, were also favorites among the programs offered in 2015.

In between, there were dance demonstrations, yoga and t’ai chi, art lectures informational programs on Social Security, Medicare and taxes.

Horse Month, a state-wide celebration of the Garden State’s official animal, was celebrated throughout the library system with numerous displays, equine books of interest for all ages highlighted, and even a visit from two horses to at least three of the libraries. A program on equestrian fashion and a film, Riding My Way Home, were also offered during June’s activities.

Staff also worked behind the scenes on a number of programs and innovations, including the Food for Fines program, during which the library office collected five and a half tons of food for the Food Bank in lieu of fines owed for overdue books and CDs. The library also participated in the Monmouth County Employee Annual Charitable Giving, the Monmouth County Fair, Adult &Teen Summer Reading and several special programs, including the I Love my Library Campaign.”

   “I couldn’t be more pleased with the broad spectrum of work and innovative ideas the library staff produces every year,” said Freeholder Lillian Burry, the Board of Freeholders liaison to the Library. “Thousands of people visit our libraries every day, because they already know there is something there for everyone. But I encourage anyone who has not visited any of our libraries to set aside an hour or several hours and stop in to see what is offered. It isn’t just books, and here with our Monmouth County Library employees, it isn’t even books, CDs and tapes. It’s plays, concerts, classes, activity on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, games, special activities for teenagers and toddlers, and so much more.”