On Thursday, May 16, 2019, the Jersey City Free Public Library Foundation celebrated the career of Library Director and Library Foundation founder Priscilla Gardner at the 16th Annual Foundation Fundraiser.
The fundraiser, titled, “Masquerade Ball & Last Dance,” was a celebration of Gardner’s 50-year career with the goal of raising necessary funds for capital improvements to the Main Library, including the restoration of the historic Tiffany glass window and monumental marble staircase.
“In light of Director Gardner’s upcoming retirement later this year, the Foundation wishes to honor her 50 years of service to the Jersey City Free Public Library,” said Foundation Board Chairman Michael Ryan. “Priscilla Gardner has made a lasting impact on the Library and the Jersey City community in her tenure as Library Director, and throughout her career.”
This year’s celebration was a joyful and poignant tribute to Gardner.
Beginning as a Junior Library Assistant, Director Gardner rose through the ranks to become the Library’s first African-American Director in 2002. She founded the Jersey City Free Public Library Foundation in 2004 in order to raise funds for capital improvements to the Library and to support Library services and programs.
“Among her many outstanding accomplishments, of course the one that is most near and dear to the Foundation’s heart is her work to establish the Foundation,” added Ryan.
Under Director Gardner’s leadership, the Foundation has made critical contributions to the Library and the communities it serves. Among the projects that the Foundation has helped make possible are:
• the ongoing renovation of the historic Main Library, ensuring that this cherished building will continue to serve the city in glorious condition for at least another century;
• the construction of the Glenn D. Cunningham Branch Library, which opened in 2004 as the first newly built branch library in over 40 years;
• a custom-built, ADA-compliant Bookmobile, bringing Library collections and services to all corners of the city;
• multiple renovations and capital upgrades across the library system, including the renovation of the Earl A. Morgan Branch (formerly known as Greenville Branch), barrier-free access at Miller Branch, asbestos abatement at Five Corners Branch, and roof restoration at Heights Branch;
• circulating wireless hotspots, making internet access a reality in patrons’ homes; as well as a wide array of digital resources and collections available to cardholders from anywhere with an internet connection.
The brainchild of Director Gardner, the Foundation’s Annual Fundraiser has become a staple of the city’s fundraiser season, with a formal yet friendly atmosphere and special guests always in attendance. In addition to members of the Foundation Board and the Library Board of Trustees, Gardner's swansong fundraiser was also attended by Mayor Steven Fulop, State Senator Sandra Cunningham, Hudson County Freeholder Bill O'Dea, City Council President Rolando Lavarro, Councilwoman At Large Joyce Watterman, Ward Councilmembers Denise Ridley, Mira Prinz-Arey, James Solomon and Jermaine Robinson, as well as former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler, former Deputy Mayor Kabili Tayari and former State Assemblyman Sean Connors.
All proceeds from ticket sales, silent auction bids, and other donated funds will benefit the Jersey City Free Public Library Foundation, in support of the Main Library’s renovations.