Image : High Street Farmers’s Market 1910 Credit: www.westjerseyhistory.org
Author: Rekha Vijayalakshmi in conversation with Sharon Vincz, Library Director
New Jersey often hides her treasures in plain sight, on quiet, unassuming streets and in nondescript towns. When she chooses to reveal them to you, they take your breath away by their elegant simplicity and an air of quietude. The Grounds for Sculpture, The Sayen Gardens in Hamilton, the Elmwood Cemetery in New Brunswick and now, The Library Company of Burlington were all unveiled to me after several years as a Jersey girl.
The Library Company of Burlington, chartered by King George II in 1757, is the oldest continuously functioning library in NJ, and the seventh oldest in the US. (In the world of libraries, age is flaunted, not disguised 🙂 ).
It is the first library in NJ to have a building solely to house the collection. The “new” building (above) has been in use since 1864, and is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.
It is also the first library in the US to have a printed catalog of its books, and one to have a meticulous record of all its transactions. The first circulated book was The Invisible Spy by Thomas Robinson. The oldest book in the collection dates back to 1521, which is less than 50 years after the printing press was invented.
William Faulkner, the last royal governor of NJ was a patron and supporter, and so was Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant.
So many firsts, so many years being part of the history of the community and the nation… no way I could miss seeing it!
I opened the front door with hesitation. I knew that it still operated under the 1757 charter of a subscription library and was not sure if it was open to public. But Robin Boyadjian, at the Information Desk, welcomed me in with a warm smile, and introduced me to Sharon Vincz, the director of the library, who took me around the library and was very generous with her time. The history of the library seemed to come alive in her enthusiastic and knowledgeable retelling of it. (Thank you again Sharon! This article would not have been possible without your help.)
The front room of the library maintains an old world charm with shelves of dark wood, sepia tinted photographs, comfortable high backed chairs, and arched windows.