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Posted by Ricardo Kaulessar on June 10, 2003 at 15:09:33:

by Ricardo Kaulessar (Urban Times News) –

May 24, 2003

Ever wanted to know where Enright-Martyniak Park is located? Who was the first Mayor in Jersey City's history? Did your grandparents graduate in the first graduating class of Dickinson High School?

The answer to the questions above and numerous other inquiries can be found in the New Jersey Room of the Main Branch of the Jersey City Public Library. Located on the third floor of the building in downtown Jersey City, it is a history buff's Xanadu.

Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9AM to 5PM and Tuesday and Thursday from 9AM to 8 PM, the New Jersey Room has been in existence since 1964 and has served generations of patrons who have needed an answer for a research paper, or an upcoming family reunion.

Or saving a landmark from destruction as was the case with the campaign to save the Hudson and Manhattan Powerhouse, with John Gomez of the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy crediting the New Jersey Room for providing him with the information to make the case for its preservation. Mayor Glenn Cunningham has also in the past utilized the resources in the room for research on the Underground Railroad that existed for slaves during the 1800's in Jersey City.

Cynthia Harris who has worked as a manager in the New Jersey Room since 2001, fields all kinds of requests from patrons visiting the room who either live down the block or come from as far as Japan, as well as by phone and the Internet.

"Someone was looking for their high school yearbook, which we didn't have from 1963, because she wanted to show her dentist what her teeth looked like from that time."

Harris, with her colleagues Joseph Donnelly, Bruce Brandt and Charles Markey, along with volunteers search through old newspapers, microfilm, city tax maps, high school yearbooks, even telephone directories shelved or stored away in the room. There's also a backroom with boxes and cabinets filled with archival papers and an additional room on the fourth floor where original copies of the Jersey Journal are kept. (No, the Urban Times News hasn't been archived yet!)

Most of the materials that have been acquired over the years for the New Jersey Room have been by donations from City Hall, the Board of Education and private donors, and purchases from flea markets, antique shops and even from E-BAY.

However, due to cuts in the library's budget, there hasn't been the monies to make such improvements as purchasing new shelving and preservation materials, hiring more paid staff, and acquiring state of the art microfilm machines. Also for such extensive projects such as creating a database for every student that ever graduated from the city's public high schools from 1876 to the present.

But the New Jersey Room staff is patient as they realize that eventually the finances will be restored once money is reinstated from the state to Jersey City's budget.

Harris, a former schoolteacher at P.S. 14 and 27 for over twenty-five years before working in the New Jersey Room, had to earn her degree in library science before qualifying for the position. But her love of history that informs her work comes from her youth, growing up in Union City and Jersey City and her research work done during her years as a teacher. "Actually I used this library as a patron because I did extensive research on the history of the school in which I taught, P.S. 14, and actually created a website for one of my classes at Rutgers," said Harris.

This writer can also attest to the value of the New Jersey Room in my research of the Enright-Martyniak Memorial Park, that is the park located on the corner of Pamrapo Avenue and Old Bergen Road. A park that will be the subject of an upcoming Urban Times News article.

The New Jersey Room is located at the Jersey City Public Library, 472 Jersey Avenue. For any inquiries, please call (201) 547-4503 or e-mail

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