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First known as the Bergen Branch of the Free Public Library of Jersey City, the Miller Branch was opened to the public on January 14, 1914 in a rented building at 543-545 Jackson Avenue. Today, the Miller Branch is still known as the “Jewel in the Crown” of the library’s system. Since 1921, the Miller Branch site has been at its current location, 489 Bergen Avenue in Jersey City.
In the last 50 years, the Miller Branch Library has consistently produced top-flight programs and special events that benefit the community, burnishing its luster as the “Jewel in the Crown” of the Jersey City Free Public Library system.
In the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, the Miller Branch Library was the only agency in our area serving young adults, children, and adults, and today, the Miller Branch continues to provide a variety of educational, cultural, informational and recreational activities. Library Director Priscilla Gardner, when she was head of the Miller Branch, developed the young adults program, petitioned the Department of Personnel to have young adult status added to her title, and won the appeal. When Gardner left the Miller Branch to become Assistant Library Director, she had coordinated over 20,000 young adult and adult programs for the Miller Branch community.
These programs give participants an opportunity to improve or learn skills, attend cultural events, and meet and bond with wholesome role models in a productive and positive environment. These programs bring youth into the library where they come into contact with books, computers and other resources important to their personal success.
The Miller Branch Computer Learning Resource Center (CLRC) is the first of its kind in the history of the Jersey City Free Public Library and the City of Jersey City. The Gardners – Anthony, Curtis and then-branch head, Priscilla – had the vision, courage, and commitment to bypass all obstacles in making this Computer Learning Resource Center a reality, including doing the interior demolition and construction of the CLRC in 1994.
Since its grand opening in April 1994, the Computer Learning Resource Center (CLRC) has been well received by the Community. The Miller Branch was the first branch within the Jersey City library system to computerize.
The CLRC gives patrons the opportunity to learn computer basics at their own pace, through individually programmed instruction materials that guide those wanting to become computer-literate. Built around the concept of self-paced video instructions, the Center boasts the latest in computer hardware and a bevy of software offerings.
The Computer Learning Resource Center provides users with a range of computer
application skills to compete in academia and the workplace, focusing on systems widely used in publishing, advertising, graphic arts and other career pursuits. Usage of the CLRC has remained very high since it opened over 20 years ago.
In November 1995, Miller Branch unveiled the "MacBret Room," featuring four brand new state-of-the-art Macintosh computers, laser printers, a full-page color scanner, and two 13-inch TV/VCR combos with cordless headphones to be used with instructional videos. The name of the MacBret Room reflects a short form of Macintosh as well as “Bret,” in honor of the direct interest taken by former Mayor Bret Schundler, who was instrumental in increasing Gardner’s funding for Young Adult and Adult Programming.
Because of the building’s age – nearly 100 years – and its heavy use by the community over the years, the Miller Branch is in need of renovations and building updates. But that does not stop the community from utilizing this well-loved space to its fullest potential.
Innovative programming throughout the year exemplifies Miller Branch community outreach. From stage plays and craft-making led by local artists, to lectures and workshops aimed at specific audiences, with particular attention to the young adult crowd, this regional branch honors its namesake.
In keeping with Miller’s emphasis on Young Adult programming, the first Teen Center in a library setting was unveiled by Branch Head Renee Moody.
The Miller Branch is also known for its extensive collection on African-American history.
As a special annual treat, on the Friday evening of Thanksgiving weekend, Soul Generation and Prime perform the year’s best and most anticipated R&B and soul show at the Miller Branch Library’s auditorium.
Since 1977, the Miller Branch has housed the Community Awareness Series (CAS), which offers library patrons programs, lectures, and workshops that educate the mind and uplift the spirit. CAS was born out of a successful experiment between the Miller Branch Library, its community, and the Spirit of Life Ensemble. CAS grew out of a highly successful program put on by a group of local artists and musicians affiliated with the Spirit of Life Ensemble, which ran workshops and performed regularly throughout the city. They were the community’s ambassadors.
The Community Awareness Series has offered a broad multicultural array of programs, such as theater, music, dance, publications, alternative health, family forums, outreach, and exposure projects for special populations, public schools, and the general public. Currently, CAS programming consists primarily of concert presentations and bringing music education to children, young adults, and adults. Since its inception, over 3,000 separate programs have been presented at the Miller Branch.