NORTH MONMOUTH — From the outside, the little building on North Main Street looks like a walk-in doll house. Actually it is the tiny North Monmouth Library, and it contained more than 4,000 books in its heyday, according to Shelia Sanford, president of the North Monmouth Library Association.

While the library has been in circulation for 87 years — since 1927 — it is finally closing its doors to the public. Library directors have decided to turn the library over to the Monmouth Museum, which has most of its holdings in center Monmouth, about five miles away. The museum may use the former library to sell some of its publications and to store some of its written assets. The transfer of the property will take place sometime next year.

“We’re all very sad about it,” said Darlene Lepoff, who has been secretary of the library association for 30 years, since 1984, and has been a library director since 1974. “We worked for many years to keep it open. Sadly, it just wasn’t being used. Older readers passed on and younger readers had other interests.”

The library had its own computer available for public use in recent years.

But, Lepoff said, “People had their own computers, especially after the schools gave every kid a laptop.”

She added, “We are extraordinarily pleased that the Monmouth Museum wanted to take it over. We didn’t want it to just sit there and deteriorate.”

Lepoff said the town used to give the North Monmouth Library a small stipend every year to operate on, but when the town stopped doing that, “We tried to raise money on our own, but it was tough.”

Lepoff said the first meeting of the library directors was held on March 7, 1924, at the home of Bertha Morse. The North Monmouth Library was first established as a branch of the larger Cumston Free Library at Cumston Hall, the iconic castle-like structure designed by artist and architect Harry Cochrane.

Cochrane also was retained to design the much smaller North Monmouth Library. It features columns on each side of its front door and latticework around the windows. The word “Library” is printed over the front door.

Some of the early presidents of the North Monmouth Library Association included Mrs. George Lindsay, Mrs. Esther Abbott, Marge Greenlief and Kathy Oakes.

The library held its most recent book sale on Oct. 18, when many bargains were available, and another sale may be held before the library is turned over to the museum.

Sanford said a local book dealer has offered to buy all the books remaining in the library’s possession after the last book sale.

Sanford said the library used to be open Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings with a librarian on duty to check out books and gather returns.

But things became more informal in recent years, she said.

“For at least five years, we’ve been handing people a key and they go and get their book,” she said.

The library organized its books by author rather than by subject under the Dewey Decimal System.

“It’s not a large library, so people can look through the shelves and find things,” Lepoff said.

Sanford said the textile mill in town, then called Winthrop Mills and now called Tex Tech, donated land for the library. She said the library was built “by public subscription.”

One of the biggest expenses now for the library is $1,800 to repair its roof.

“Once the circulation was quite high,” recalled Sanford. “Throughout the Depression and World War II and into the ’60s and the ’70s. I believe television was a factor in its decline. There was also an availability of books that could be sent to your home, such as the Book of the Month Club. Children still used the library to do their book reports.”

She said the library used to circulate such magazines as Life, Time, Collier’s and others, as well as Books on Tape. Sanford, who also is president of Monmouth Museum, said, “The museum hasn’t determined its full planning for the library. They are going to put some books in there. Their intent is in its being the Harry Cochrane building. One of the thoughts is it could be the museum library. There could be special displays each month. We have some very nice things that are in storage at the museum that came from North Monmouth.”


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