Serving the second largest city in New Jersey and located on the Hudson River across from lower Manhattan, the Jersey City Free Public Library system consists of Priscilla Gardner Main Library, Branches & Bookmobile to provide access to a diversified collection of 400,000+ pieces of printed, audiovisual, and electronic resources that addresses the needs of the truly multicultural clientele of the city's 240,055 population.
With the introduction of an online catalog, users can now search the collection from their homes as well as from a growing number of onsite computer terminals. System-wide automation was completed in 2002. On August 17, 2004, the Library held the grand opening of its first new branch in 42 years, serving the M.L.King redevelopment area, the Glenn D. Cunningham Branch, named after the late Jersey City Mayor and State Senator.
A Message from the Director
(Adopted October 10, 2000)
We serve the Jersey City community by providing access to diversified printed, audiovisual, and electronic resources that help Jersey City residents
- Address their educational goals.
- Find answers on a broad array of subjects.
- Understand their own culture and the cultures of others.
- Locate and evaluate information.
- Satisfy their interest and need for current popular materials and topics.
As a taxpayer-supported service of Jersey City, we are committed to serving all individuals and groups in the community through a courteous, well-trained staff in a user-friendly environment.
History of the Priscilla Gardner Main Library
Stay Up to Date with the Priscilla Gardner Main Library Renovations here.
On May 13, 1889, seven men met in the City Hall office of Mayor Orestes Cleveland to organize the first free public library for Jersey City. These newly appointed library trustees chose as their president Leonard Gordon, M.D., a long-term advocate for a public library. Their first task was to file a suit to force the city's Finance Board to appropriate the funds mandated by state law.
With 15,515 books in stock and with no fanfare, the new library opened on July 6, 1891, in rented, gaslit rooms in two adjacent bank buildings on Washington Street near York Street. To move from one part of the library to the other, the public had to go out into the street. Clearly, a new structure was needed, one designed to house a large book collection and to provide seating capacity for a city with a population nearing the 200,000 mark.
Working throughout the 1890s, the trustees acquired land at Jersey Avenue and Montgomery Street, hired a supervising architect, Professor A.D.F. Hamlin of Columbia University, and announced a design competition. The architectural firm of Brite and Bacon of New York was selected, and, on August 16, 1899, the cornerstone was set in place. On January 14, 1901 the new building, today's Priscilla Gardner Main Library, was dedicated.
As Jersey City grew, so did the library system. The Hudson City Branch opened in 1911 in rooms on the second floor of 337 Central Avenue. Its success, with over one hundred thousand books circulated in the first year, demonstrated the need for additional branches. The Bergen Branch opened on Jackson Avenue in 1915 and the Greenville branch on Danforth Avenue the following year. The inadequacy of these rented quarters soon became apparent and, starting in 1917 with the Zabriskie Street Library (now known as the Heights Branch), new branch buildings were constructed. The Miller Branch on Bergen Avenue and the Greenville Branch (now known as the Morgan Branch) on Kennedy Boulevard have become neighborhood landmarks.
Physical expansion continued into the 1920s, and the Priscilla Gardner Main Library itself was enlarged. But the Great Depression took its toll, curtailing additional growth for a long time after that project was completed. It was not until 1962 that the Library added a new building, located on Newark Avenue at Five Corners.
The Library added services throughout the next few decades. Biblioteca Criolla, a Spanish-language branch, opened in 1972. Storefront branches were added throughout the city. Media services were expanded and video rentals introduced. Additional programming, access to online databases, and the use of microforms, maps, and photographs have augmented the book and periodical collections.
Now in its second century of service to the people of Jersey City, the Library has automated its catalog and its circulation procedures. Through the online catalog, patrons can search the collection from their homes as well as from computer terminals available for public use. In 2004, the Library celebrated the opening of the first new branch built since 1962, when the Glenn D. Cunningham Branch Library & Community Center opened on Martin Luther King Drive.