Haddonfield Public Library
123 Kings Highway Haddonfield, NJ 08033-2469 · 856-429-1304
Mon-Thurs 10am-9pm Fri 10am-6pm Sat 10am-5pm Sun 1pm-5pm
"A library is... liberty."
- Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto
A Brief History of Libraries in Haddonfield
On March 5, 1803, leading citizens of the town met and founded the Haddonfield Library Company. This library, one of the first in New Jersey, was a subscription library. Users had to pay an annual fee to join, although non-members could use the Library and borrow books at a nominal fee per book. Though formed “to extend the benefit of learning and to promote a spirit of literacy, “the Library Company seldom purchased novels because Quakers of that era advised against reading such material.
The early years of the Library Company were plagued with financial problems; and the Library had no permanent home. It moved often between the Friends School and various locations around town.
In 1887 a second library, the Haddon Athenaeum, was organized. The Athenaeum was also a subscription library; but, unlike the Library Company, it purchased novels. The Athenaeum also had a game room (discontinued because of the noise) and sponsored lectures and educational courses. By 1900, although having fewer books (2150 to 2527), the Athenaeum’s circulation was thirteen times higher than that of the Library Company.
In 1908 a merger of the two libraries was proposed. When no agreement was reached, the Athenaeum offered its books and building to the town on the condition that a municipal library be established. The voters overwhelmingly approved this referendum in 1909. The Library Company, although remaining a separate incorporated entity, agreed to place its books in the newly founded public library.
Soon outgrowing the Athenaeum building, in 1917 the Library began construction at its present site. Most of the money for the building, jointly owned by the Library, the Library Company, and the Historical Society, was raised by donations. Modeled on Jefferson’s Monticello, the building was not completed until 1919 because of the World War.
Laying of the cornerstone, 1917
Usage and the collection grew rapidly. The Historical Society moved into a separate home in 1938. Sunday hours, begun in 1943 (one of the first libraries to do so) proved very popular. In 1958, a major addition was completed. The library is scheduled for a 2000 square foot expansion and complete renovation of the existing building in 2015. Watch for updates!