Friday, March 22, 2013

The James Library

by Sheila Connolly

Last week I wrote about Carnegie libraries, which started me thinking about the libraries in my life.

I was an early reader.  In fact, I can't remember not being able to read.  My mother claims I read street signs to her when she drove me places, not that I remember that.  She too was a reader, so there was always reading material around the house, including the large-format glossy magazines of the day—Life, Look, The Saturday Evening Post.  I still miss those.

My first library experience did not end well.  As I've said here before, when we moved to a new town, the year I was five, my mother took me to get a library card, and I took good care of it.  However, somewhere along the way there was some miscommunication:  I thought that once you took the books out of the library, they were yours to keep.  Which does not explain why I hid them under my bed. My mother confiscated my library card, and I still rankle at the memory.

Later she relented, and I usually had a library card for whatever town we lived in (we moved around a lot).  Of course, my mother had to do the driving then. At least she supported my reading addiction (and probably hers as well). And there were always school libraries, although as I recall they limited the number of books you could take out at one time, which was never enough for me. It wasn't until I was in my teens that I lived close enough to the local library to walk there.

When we moved to Madison, New Jersey, in the 1960s, there was a delightful old library in town, which I used regularly (remember when you had to do real live research for school papers?). However, apart from admiring the architecture now and then (and marveling at the opaque glass floors in the stacks, which I found unsettling), I didn't think much about it.  On a whim I looked it up when I was checking out Andrew Carnegie, and I found something that surprised me.

The James Library opened in 1900, the gift of D. Willis James, who in addition to funding the granite and limestone structure also stocked the library with 5,000 books.  I never even knew the library had a name—it was the The Library.  And I certainly had no idea who D. Willis James was.  What kid or teenager thinks about the history of his or her town? (Well, I did know that Madison was once known as Bottle Hill because of the tavern located there in the 18th century.)

So I looked up Mr. James, who turns out to have been Daniel Willis James, age 68, iron merchant, living on Madison Avenue (as I did, but not exactly in the same neighborhood) in 1900. He was a corporate mogul with a variety of mining and railroad interests.  When he died in 1907, he was one of the hundred wealthiest men in America.  Maps show that he and his wife owned a nice chunk of land on the north side of town, the site of his summer home, built in 1885.  Anyway, this civic-minded gentleman gave the town a library.

But that's not the whole story.  Mr. James also built a commercial building across the street (called the James Building, no surprise) whose purpose was "to provide income for the Library's maintenance and operation." Funny—I remember the James Building almost as well as I remember the library.  It had a ballroom upstairs, where I attended a couple of meetings; a music store, where I had one of my first jobs, bartering for guitar lessons; and downstairs, a hair salon where I had my hair done for the junior prom. There was a drugstore with a soda fountain on the corner. In short, it was an important part of the town.

What is so lovely is that Mr. James did not just hand a gift to the town and walk away.  He was a smart businessman and made sure that the library's expenses would be covered in the future. Both buildings are still standing, although the library building now houses a small museum; the town built a new library on the other side of town shortly after I left for college.

Like Carnegie, James (who attended school in Scotland) believed in contributing to his community, which he did in many ways.  We were and are lucky that they both thought libraries were important. And what's more, they both created memorable settings for learning and reading.


Edith Maxwell said...

A wonderful story, Sheila. What amazes me beyond that is that I had no idea you lived in Madison. Did you know any Lockharts? Hugh, Anne, or Mary? They lived on Central (Ave, I think). Hugh is my beau of going on ten years! His father Roy was chair of the math department and coached tennis. Small world indeed...

Carmen Amato said...

Sheila, I loved your thoughts on the importance of the library to the community. I grew up in a small town in upstate New York and the library and the arts center were famous landmarks to me, places of discovery and generosity. All those books! For free! They are both still there, anchoring the town, keeping up with the times, and still smelling slightly musty.

Susan said...

Sheila, loved your post about libraries. I, too, blogged about libraries in my life and town for the same reasons--interesting history, played a huge part in my life, and now a center of town activity. My hometown of Galesburg, Illinois built a Carnegie library. The library in my currrent town started as a "reading room." It is a wonderful place!

Sandra Parshall said...

The architecture of these old buildings is what I love. Any library is a wonderful place, but the atmosphere in a glass-and-brick box isn't quite the same.

Jeri Westerson said...

My favorite library in these parts is the A.K. Smiley Library in Redlands, CA. Truly amazing architecture with rich carved wood inside, stained glass, and wonderful nooks. Old libraries are like old friends; great to visit.

Anonymous said...

I read this article fully on the topic of the difference of
most recent and earlier technologies, it's awesome article.

My homepage :: Cheap Jerseys

Anonymous said...

Admiring the time and energy you put into your website and detailed information you present.
It's nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn't the
same unwanted rehashed information. Excellent read!
I've bookmarked your site and I'm including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

my webpage:

Anonymous said...

This paragraph will help the internet visitors for setting up new website or even a weblog from start to end.

Feel free to surf to my web site - Cheap NFL Jerseys

Anonymous said...

It's amazing designed for me to have a website, which is helpful in favor of my experience. thanks admin

Feel free to surf to my weblog - Wholesale Jerseys

Anonymous said...

What a data of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious familiarity regarding
unexpected emotions.

Look at my web site: Kris Letang Authentic Jersey

Anonymous said...

Great beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your web site,
how can i subscribe for a blog website? The account aided me a
acceptable deal. I had been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright clear idea

Feel free to surf to my web-site; Cheap Nike Jerseys

Anonymous said...

Hurrah! In the end I got a blog from where I know how to truly take
valuable facts regarding my study and knowledge.

My blog post - Mario Lemieux Black Jersey

Anonymous said...

My family members all the time say that I am wasting my time
here at net, however I know I am getting familiarity daily by reading thes nice

Feel free to surf to my web blog ... continue

Anonymous said...

I know this if off topic but I'm looking into starting my own blog and was wondering what all is required to get set up? I'm assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
I'm not very internet smart so I'm not 100% certain. Any suggestions or
advice would be greatly appreciated. Appreciate it

Look into my blog post Louis Vuitton Outlet

Anonymous said...

This is really attention-grabbing, You are an overly professional blogger.

I have joined your feed and look forward to looking for more of your great post.
Additionally, I have shared your website in my social networks

Review my page: Air Jordan Femme

Anonymous said...

Great beat ! I wish to apprentice while you amend
your website, how can i subscribe for a blog website?
The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been tiny bit
acquainted of this your broadcast offered bright clear

My webpage :: Louis Vuitton Outlet

Anonymous said...

It is appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it's time to be happy. I have read this post and if I could I want to suggest you few interesting things or suggestions. Maybe you can write next articles referring to this article. I want to read more things about it!

Feel free to visit my web-site :: Nike Air Max

Anonymous said...

I do not know if it's just me or if perhaps everybody else encountering issues with your blog. It appears as if some of the text on your posts are running off the screen. Can somebody else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them too? This might be a issue with my internet browser because I've had this happen before.
Appreciate it

Look at my web page :: Sac Louis Vuitton Pas Cher

Anonymous said...

I all the time emailed this web site post page to all my
associates, since if like to read it next my friends will too.

Feel free to surf to my web-site Wholesale NFL Jerseys

Anonymous said...

That is very interesting, You're an excessively skilled blogger. I've joined your rss feed and sit up for in quest of
extra of your excellent post. Additionally, I've shared your web site in my social networks

Take a look at my webpage ... Cheap Jerseys

Anonymous said...

It is not my first time to pay a visit this web page, i am
browsing this web page dailly and obtain good
information from here all the time.

Also visit my site

Anonymous said...

I'm gone to inform my little brother, that he should also pay a visit this website on regular basis to take updated from newest news update.

Here is my site:

Anonymous said...

Link exchange is nothing else but it is only placing the other person's website link on your page at proper place and other person will also do same in support of you.

Feel free to visit my web blog :: Chaussure Air Jordan

Anonymous said...

Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long as
I provide credit and sources back to your weblog? My blog is in the very same
niche as yours and my users would definitely benefit from a
lot of the information you present here. Please let me know if this alright
with you. Appreciate it!

Feel free to visit my web page:

Anonymous said...

Very soon this website will be famous amid all blogging and site-building
visitors, due to it's nice articles

Also visit my web site - Montre Guess

Anonymous said...

Greetings! Very helpful advice within this article! It is the little changes which will make the greatest changes.

Many thanks for sharing!

Feel free to surf to my web site ... Visit Website

Anonymous said...

Nice answer back in return of this query with firm arguments and
telling the whole thing about that.

Feel free to visit my homepage Sac A Main Louis Vuitton

Anonymous said...

What i don't realize is actually how you're not actually much more well-favored than you
may be now. You're very intelligent. You recognize thus considerably in the case of this matter, produced me personally consider it from numerous various angles. Its like men and women aren't interested until it is something to do with Woman gaga!
Your individual stuffs excellent. All the time take care of it up!

Feel free to surf to my web site: Soldes Air Jordan

Anonymous said...

Every weekend i used to pay a visit this web page, as i wish for enjoyment, as this this web site
conations truly nice funny stuff too.

My blog post - Wholesael NFL Jerseys

Anonymous said...

Howdy! Do you use Twitter? I'd like to follow you if that would be okay. I'm absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

My webpage; Chaussures Foot

Anonymous said...

I was able to find good info from your blog articles.

Feel free to surf to my website; Nike Free Run

Anonymous said...

It's actually a nice and useful piece of information. I am glad that you simply shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

my web site; Mulberry UK

Anonymous said...

I like the helpful information you provide in your articles.

I will bookmark your blog and take a look at once more
right here regularly. I'm somewhat certain I will be informed plenty of new stuff right right here! Good luck for the following!

My website - Nike Blazers Shoes

Anonymous said...

I've been browsing on-line more than 3 hours today, yet I by no means found any fascinating article like yours. It's pretty worth enough for me.
In my view, if all site owners and bloggers made just right content material as you did, the internet
can be much more helpful than ever before.

Feel free to surf to my blog: Sac A Main Louis Vuitton

Anonymous said...

Thank you for any other magnificent article. The
place else may just anybody get that type of info in such an ideal manner of
writing? I have a presentation next week, and I'm at the look for such info.

Here is my blog: Cheap NFL Jerseys **

Anonymous said...

I was suggested this blog by my cousin. I'm not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my problem. You're wonderful!

My page; Kobe Bryant Shoes 2013

Anonymous said...

I've been browsing on-line greater than 3 hours lately, but I never discovered any interesting article like yours. It is beautiful price sufficient for me. In my opinion, if all website owners and bloggers made just right content material as you probably did, the net will likely be much more useful than ever before.

Also visit my page ... Michael Kors

Anonymous said...

Wow, awesome blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is wonderful, as well as the content!

Take a look at my web-site; Full Article

Anonymous said...

Quality articles is the key to interest the users
to visit the site, that's what this web site is providing.

my web-site Boutique Air Max

Anonymous said...

What's Going down i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I've discovered It positively useful and it has aided
me out loads. I am hoping to give a contribution & aid different customers like its aided me.
Good job.

My web site: Louis Vuitton Handbags Outlet

Anonymous said...

Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I've truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I'll be subscribing
to your rss feed and I hope you write again

Also visit my webpage - Nike Trainers