275 Martin Luther King Dr.
Jersey City, NJ 07305
Phone: (201) 547 - 4555
Branch Manager: Francina Stevens
Chief Librarian: Hussein Odeh
The Glenn D. Cunningham Branch Library and Community Center was the first new branch library constructed in Jersey City since 1962. It opened to the public on August 18, 2004, replacing and upgrading the Claremont Branch Library, which had been located in a storefront one block north at 291 Martin Luther King Drive. The Grand Opening took place on August 17, 2004.
Library Director Priscilla Gardner, who served as project manager on the Cunningham Library’s construction, takes pride in providing 21st-century library services and programs to the residents of this neighborhood, and in providing a community meeting space for the many organizations working in the M.L. King Redevelopment Area.
The Cunningham Branch is a 5,200-square-foot facility, featuring a community room, outdoor shaded reading area, and children’s paving stone maze.
Since its grand opening, Mary Quinn, MLS, head of the Cunningham Branch, has worked diligently to build the collection beyond its original holdings from the much smaller Neighborhood storefront, the Claremont Branch. This Regional branch now provides a wide variety of picture books for children, fiction and non-fiction for young adults, as well as significant collections of books on Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. Civil War, in commemoration of the 200th birthday of our nation’s 16th president and the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. Books in the Reference area have received a much-needed augmentation as well, including new Library materials on African-American history, as well as test preparation materials, such as the SAT, GRE, and Civil Service Exam.
The new Glenn D. Cunningham Library was made possible by $1,740,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding, and by $500,000 granted from the City Council’s Reinvestment Account during the administration of former Mayor Bret Schundler. The Library Board of Trustees developed this project in cooperation with the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency, then-Board President Ervin L. Haynes, and then-Assistant Director Priscilla Gardner. The Cunningham Branch’s architect was Helena Ruman, A.I.A.
Claremont Branch Library
‘It may only be a store to start out with, but we’ve got to do something to relieve the need in that area,’ said William Roehrenbeck, new assistant to Edmund W. Miller, city librarian.” (Jersey Journal, February 19, 1952)
With that sentiment in mind, the Claremont Branch Library, the library system’s ninth, officially opened on Tuesday, February 11, 1954. Located in a converted retail establishment at 639 Ocean Avenue (at the corner of Claremont Avenue), this storefront library was at the time “a complete departure from tradition.”(Hudson Dispatch, February 8, 1954)
The Dispatch went on: “It is modern in every detail, completely functional in design. The furniture and equipment are of metal. The 2 long side walls are chartreuse, and the end wall and pillars are forest green. Division of the single, rectangular room into adult and juvenile areas is made with low free standing book cases. Children’s department is in the front, with the adult section toward the rear. A reading corner for adults is furnished with informal furniture and modern lamps. Nearby are the new books section and the current magazines. Branch seats 40 persons and can house a collection of 6,000 volumes.”
In an article on February 5, 1954, the Jersey Journal reported that the Claremont Branch was the “Free Public Library’s answer to demands by parents and community leaders who had pointed to the remoteness of existing library facilities from the east side of Greenville.”
Unfortunately, The Claremont Branch Library on Ocean Avenue succumbed to fire in the early 1980s. The resulting damage from fire and flood, stemming from extinguishing the fire, necessitated, according to a news brief in the January 19, 1982 issue of the Jersey Journal, a $22,784 appropriation from the State Education Board as partial reimbursement of the uninsurable loss. The Claremont Branch then relocated to Martin Luther King Drive, where it remained for two decades until the new Cunningham Branch Library was constructed and opened to the public.