The Friends of the Madison Public Library celebrated their 80th Anniversary at an annual Gala Benefit on Saturday, March 10, at the library, 39 Keep Street by honoring their founder, The Thursday Morning Club. Guests enjoyed delicious food prepared by the Catering Department of the Thursday Morning Club under the direction of Bernie Grohol.
Sylvia Luber, Chair of the Friends, formally welcomed Lynn Favreau who began as Madison’s new library director 10 months ago. She was previously the Director of Mountainside Public Library. “The Friends enjoy working with Lynn and look forward to helping her and the library as they move forward with their new projects,” said Luber.
Speaking for Trustees’ president, Tom Bintinger, Trustee vice president, David Luber, described initiatives being taken by the library trustees and the borough government to meet objectives from the library’s strategic plan. These will focus on redesigning and refreshing the main children’s and adult wings of the building, including installing a new, energy-efficient membrane on the roof, installing energy efficient lighting, placing new carpeting and creating additional program and collaborative spaces within the building.
Luber based her talk on a document she found entitled “Founding of the Friends” by Harriet Pilch Hewson. In 1936, Hewson was inspired by an article in a magazine describing how a mid-western town saved its library by forming a Friends Group and charging each member $1. After receiving permission from the Board of Trustees she mailed letters to 250 card holders and received a response from 101 persons and four organizations. When Hewson became President of the Thursday Morning Club in 1938 she asked the club to actively sponsor the Friends since “the club was so connected with the civic life of Madison, it should attract other donors and organizations to the library.” And, she was right. Her second letter to prominent citizens requested their ‘interest and influence’ and $1 a year to buy books. This first meeting of the charter members of the “Friends of the Library Group sponsored by the Thursday Morning Club was held on Friday evening, December 16, 1938 in the Madison Library. “One woman’s vision combined with the efforts of the Thursday Morning Club saved the Madison Public Library and left a lasting legacy of support,” concluded Luber.
“It is a privilege for the Friends to honor the Thursday Morning Club not only as our founder, but also because they have greatly contributed to the educational, social, and recreational fabric of the community for the past 122 years,” said Luber.
Carol Schessler, President of the Thursday Morning Club told guests that the mission of the club changes to meet the needs of the community, but our purpose, as noted by our motto, ‘I serve,’ stays the same.” She continued, “Our Club is unique in that we own, operate, and maintain our own building, the Madison Community House. We currently have a Nursery School on the premises and operate the Before and After School Child Care program in the three Madison Elementary schools. Our House is open 365 days a year, and over 55,000 people use it during that time.”
Michal Holzman, past president of the Thursday Morning Club and historian, spoke about the early history of the club in the 1900’s and emphasized that assistance was provided to everyone in need. The club introduced many services to Madison including a District Nurse, the Shade Tree Commission, the first playground, regular garbage collection, a recreation center, the first morning kindergarten, a “Baby Keep-Well” clinic and provided social service and counseling to families and individuals. In 1924, through the bequest of club member Mrs. Mary Cash Brown, the club was able to build a Settlement House, the current Madison Community House, on Cook Avenue. People are always amazed at how much the Thursday Morning Club has done and continues to do.
Luber presented Schessler with an engraved plaque to be hung in the library and one for the Madison Community House honoring the Thursday the Morning Club as Founder of the Friends.