Old Tappan Library was incorporated as a non-profit association on June 19, 1941. Prior to becoming an official library, there were small collections of books that were donated by residents and kept in the Chapel and two-room schoolhouse which was built in 1890.
The first location of our library was a room in the newly built Charles De Wolf elementary school. There were 480 books in the collection. The circulation in 1944 showed 151 registered patrons and a circulation of 3,127 books and magazines. The library budget allowed the purchase of 53 adult and 72 juvenile books that year. In 1951, as the population of Old Tappan grew, the school needed the room that was occupied by the library. The only option was to move the library to a dingy room in the basement. The Library Board recruited volunteers, adults and children, who transformed the room into a beautiful space. Community organizations held bake and plant sales and bazaars to raise money for the renovation.
In the late fifties, the library moved one more time to another room at the Charles De Wolf School. By 1970, the school could no longer provide space for the town library and something had to be done. The Mayor & Council offered a small lot on the corner of Russell Ave and Irving Street and offered the Library Board a $1.00 yearly lease of the property for 99 years. The Library Board of Trustees started a town wide campaign to raise funds for a brand new library. Volunteers went door to door asking residents to pledge funds. The fundraising effort and a federal grant raised enough money to begin the project and the new library was dedicated in 1975.
The first computer was purchased in 1988 through a generous donation. Shortly thereafter, the library became a member of the Bergen County Cooperative System (BCCLS.) The collection was automated and added to the BCCLS database. As a member of BCCLS, residents now had access to over 4 million books, movies, magazines and more and they could use their library card at any member library.
The library continued to grow and in 2003 our circulation was over 112,000 items which was pretty remarkable for a town with a population of about 5,000. The library needed to be expanded and renovated (and have that 70's orange carpet replaced!) Once again, a team of volunteers came together and we adopted our campaign slogan "Expanding our horizons...to enrich our community." Our first fundraiser was on February 29th and we "arrested" a select group of residents which included the Mayor & Council, PTA Presidents, school principals, a UPS driver, the Library Board of Trustees and staff members. Everyone had to raise "bail" money which was turned in on the day of the event. This fundraiser was a huge success and the first of many. Over the next few years the committee organized live and silent auctions, a pet walk-a-thon, scavenger hunt, garage sales and more.
We broke ground in March 2006, after moving most of the library to a temporary location in a warehouse location in town. Our new library was dedicated in January 2007. We added over 11,000 square feet to the existing building, which now includes a young adult, children’s program room, and community room, office space, and room for additional seating. Through several generous donations, a beautiful bluestone patio with benches and a fountain were installed. Our new library truly has enriched our community.