Tag Archives: Hoboken History

Was Your Great Grandmother a Hoboken Library Patron?: Historic Library Ledgers

11 Sep

Before I started working here a little over a year ago, during renovations, staff had found some old ledgers that had been tucked away in the library office. Upon further examination, these ledgers contained a register of the library’s earliest patrons (and their addresses and occupations) and the original staff rosters with hours worked. They weren’t in the best condition due to being stored somewhere warm and dry, and it was evident that they were valuable to the history collection and the library itself and needed some preservation and restoration work. My predecessor brought them to the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, and they’ve been lovingly preserving and cleaning the ledgers a few at a time. When I came on board, we’d had three finished already, and before long I went down to Philly to pick up the next batch. Since then, I’ve been down twice more to pick up two more sets, and I’ll likely be retrieving the final two ledgers within the next few months, effectively completing the project.

These ledgers are unique in that they don’t really have any financial value. Their value is entirely historical; you just can’t put a price tag on the information they contain. As mentioned above, one of them is a full staff roster with their hours worked, allowing us a glimpse, however small, of our predecessors who worked here over 100 years ago. Our mission is the same as theirs was – to provide the Hoboken public with books, information, and other media and help with any inquiries they might have. We’ve grown in scope and size since those early days and offer so much more – e-resources, a Makerspace, music, gaming, and DVD rentals, and all sorts of varied programming for both children and adults, but it’s important to never forget where you started from. Our co-workers of the past worked just as hard as we did to make the people of Hoboken happy and answer their questions, and now we can put names to them.

Ledger Image One

The majority of the eleven ledgers are registers of the patrons who used the library in its earliest days. These are a particularly potent genealogical resource for people with ancestors from Hoboken – they provide names, addresses, and in many cases careers. (Sometimes those careers are simply “student,” “schoolboy,” or “schoolgirl,” proof that children have been patrons of the library since the very beginning too! And not every child was in school, either – some errand boys and errand girls came to the library, as well!) If anyone reading this post had ancestors in Hoboken around 1890 up through the early 1910s and is having trouble finding them, perhaps those ancestors made their way to the library at some point on intellectual quests of their own.

Ledger Image Two

If you’re interested in seeing the ledgers currently completed and returned to the library, there’s a few ways to do so. Firstly, you can visit the library and use the local history computer to view the digitized versions of them if you’re nervous to handle them physically. If you’re more of a hands-on person or you’re interesting in experiencing history more up close and personal, then make an appointment with the reference department to come in and view the ledgers themselves! The history librarian (hint: that’s me!) will be super excited to show them to you and talk with you about them!

If you have any other inquiries about Hoboken history, the collection awaits you! I also highly recommend a visit to the Hoboken Historical Museum for some more in-depth exhibits and their amazing collections to further your research or sate your hunger for Hoboken history.

Written By:
Steph Diorio
Local History Librarian/Archivist at the Hoboken Public Library

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