By Muriel Smith |
SHREWSBURY – For Monmouth County Library Commission Chair Renee B. Swartz, having the children’s library at the Eastern Branch Library on Route 35 named for her in recognition of the contributions she has given to the library, is an honor she will forever cherish and prize.
Swartz, who has been a member of the commission for more than 50 years and has served as its chair for the vast majority of those years, has a passion for the importance of libraries in the life of every child and has worked at several levels of government from the county to the nation to make it happen.
A resident of Rumson, Swartz was honored by the commission, Congressman Chris Smith, local civic leaders and her family and friends at the Oct. 28 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Eastern Branch Library.
First named to the Library Commission in 1966, she is known as a strong proponent of having it recognized as the heart of the community, the one place in any village, town or city where everyone can feel equal, everyone can feel at home, and everyone can both learn and enjoy, regardless of interest or economy
“Reading is the key to going anywhere you want and doing everything you want to do,” said Swartz. “Books can take you anywhere, they can create an environment all their own. They act as a springboard for change, encouragement, discussion, entertainment, education. There is no end to what is accomplished through books.”
Swartz not only preaches the importance of libraries, but she practices tirelessly to keep the Monmouth County Library system one of the leading libraries in the state, if not the nation.
“Before we had Eastern Branch, we had a bookmobile that traveled around the Monmouth County towns,” she recalls, “books were housed in a building in Manalapan and were changed out every two weeks. This was sufficient at the time, serving a rural area. But as Monmouth County grew and flourished, so did the library system. Today, there are 12 branches in addition to the headquarters library in Manalapan, and many are in the towns that were once only served by the bookmobile.” In addition to the branches, the Monmouth County library also has 13 municipalities as members of the library and offers more than 1.7 million items, including more than 100,000 electronic titles.
“While I still cherish a book as the greatest resource, the manner in which our county library has kept up with technology enables us to also over e- books, audio books, electronic magazines, streaming videos and accessibility at any time through the library’s website,” Swartz continued.
Statistics show that 10 percent of the library’s circulation was electronic last year, and circulation in 2016 and 2017 reached 3 million items. Library branches have also recorded more than 1.3 million visits in the two years, and more than 90,000 uses of public internet logged at branch locations.
Much of this advance in technology and expansion can be attributed to Swartz’ experience and leadership. She has served on numerous national boards and also served as chair of most of them. She served on the Women in Public Service Project and Colloquium representing Barnard College in 2011 and was a presidential appointee to the Institute of Museum and Library Services Board, a federal agency that administers funds to 122,000 Libraries and 17,500 museums across the nation where she served five years and is currently a Member Emerita. She was also appointed by President George Bush to serve on a White House Conference on Aging and was Chairman and a member of the founding Board of Directors of the Library of Congress, NJ Center for the Book. At the state level, she also served on the NJ State Library Advisory Council from 1976 through 2011. She has been chair of the Monmouth County Commission since 1975.
This article was first published in the Nov. 8-14, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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