Two Sides To Every Great Story

September 3, 2018
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By Hope Daniels |

Many of us have heard the old expression, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and the hidden gems collecting dust on the bookshelves at some of the most well known local libraries in the Two River area is a perfect example. From sentimental messages inscribed on the inside front cover to famous author signatures to historical objects left behind for any stranger to find, some of the most interesting stories have yet to be written.

The Eastern Branch in Shrewsbury, part of the Monmouth County Library, usually receives donations of books and materials nearly every week and traditionally holds book sales twice a year – in spring and fall. The staff never knows what “gifts” they are going to receive.

“I think people are hesitant to throw away books, so they prefer to give them to us, hoping they will have another life in someone else’s hands. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Sometimes things are just destined for recycling,” said Kim Avagliano, supervising librarian. “Once we received a batch of donations one day and a staff member, who was sorting through them, happened to notice that one of the books was actually a “book safe” where the center of the text block was cut out, and inside was a compartment holding costume jewelry.”

Avagliano still has these belongings in her possession. She explained some of the other items in that same batch were inscribed with the owner’s name. The library found no local contact information, but they did locate an obituary. The funeral home attempted to contact the family, but the library never got a reply.

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The Little Silver Library on Prospect Avenue offers a tiny shopping area of used books directly across from the entrance – you can’t miss them. Most of the books for sale are softcover paperbacks that look fairly new, in great condition and resemble the romance novels patrons buy as they wait on line in the supermarket or airport. But, beyond the secondhand collection, a decrepit looking hardcover book with a very fragile binding is stowed away behind the librarian’s desk for safekeeping. The book is older than the library, established back in 1926. “The White House Cookbook,” by F.L. Gilette has a handwritten recipe that dates back more than a century. It appears the reader was learning how to prepare a rabbit dish circa Feb. 2, 1903.

As speedy technology and souped-up Kindle books dominate the younger generation’s interaction with words to screen, The Oceanic Free Library still brings the power of words to paper to our youth and the Rumson residents. “We have approximately 28,000 books,” said Nanette Reis, library director. Within the circulation is a book written by fallen soldier, William H. Meeker. For those who follow Rumson history, William H. Meeker was killed in France during World War I prompting the Meeker family to donate the Oceanic Free Library to the Rumson community as a private memorial in 1920. The original autobiography remains preserved in the library but Reis has her own autographed republished version celebrating Meeker’s life on display and copies for purchase.

These are just a few surprising narratives surrounding the Two River area, which makes book lovers and collectors realize sometimes an author’s book ending begins with the intro to a reader’s real-life story.

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This article was first published in the August 30-Sept. 6, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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