Just 13 years after the Civil War in 1878, the Free Library and Reading Room-Williamstown Memorial Library opened its doors. By 1883, teenage boys could take out a copy of the newly released “Treasure Island,” by Robert Louis Stevenson, and adults could browse an array of newspapers and popular magazines.
Located at the corner of Liberty and Main streets, the library building is now a historic site. More importantly, it planted the seeds for the modern and busy Monroe Township library at 713 Marsha Ave., just behind the Williamstown Farmers Market on the Black Horse Pike.
“We are busier now than we were before COVID,” said library Director Samantha Snyder, who started out as the teen librarian in 2015 and took on her current role four years later. “We have become a community gathering place. We serve over 100,000 people per year. More than two-thirds of Monroe Township residents have library cards.”
Unlike in the 19th century, the library has a lot more to offer than books and periodicals, including yoga for adults, meeting rooms for clubs like the Williamstown Sunshine Rotary, and computers where teens can play video games and adults can print resumes.
There are numerous programs for people of all ages.
“When I put up the registration link for programs, they fill up to capacity almost immediately, especially the 11:30 a.m. yoga classes on Thursday,” noted Snyder, who praised her staff for making it all possible, including children’s librarian Katrina Hauserman; teen librarian Kyle Casser; librarian Jennifer Schillig, who is starting a new senior crafts program; and adult reference librarians Brittany Jones and Chris DiFazio.
“We have a great team,” said Snyder, a graduate of Triton High School who originally wanted to be a pharmacist while attending Rowan University in Glassboro.
“I was taking chemistry and biology classes,” she recalled, but while working part time at the Camden County Library in Voorhees she changed her mind.
“One day I thought, ‘I will do this the rest of my life,'” explained Snyder about working at the library.
She was a college sophomore at the time and went on to graduate with a major in history, then earned her master’s degree in library science from Clarion University in Pennsylvania.
“I was able to take my classes in Philadelphia,” added Snyder, who said she enjoys the administrative duties as director, such as making a budget. “I like working with numbers.”
Snyder also enjoys getting out from behind the library desk and helping patrons, especially with designing and helping to write resumes for job seekers.
“I love doing resumes and formatting them,” she pointed out, adding that it felt great when a man came back to thank her after getting the job he wanted.
Since the Monroe facility is a stand-alone library, one of Snyder’s challenges is being responsible for maintenance issues, like when the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) goes down.
Although the Monroe library is not part of the Gloucester County Library System, it does have shared services with 22 branches – including those in the system – so patrons can get a book available at another library.
Snyder is also one of nine members of the Municipal Libraries of Gloucester County, which has quarterly, in-person “logical” meetings where “we can discuss problems stand-alone librarians go through, discuss new technology and compare patrons,” she said.
As for future goals, Snyder hopes to upgrade the library’s four teen computers to enable more advanced video games. All 16 adult computers have been replaced and there are eight computers for children.”
Snyder and her staff are want to build a better relationship with the Monroe council.
“The new administration wants to work with us,” she allowed, “and some of the council members have come here to see what needs to be done.”
The library has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a building on Main Street with just 133 books, 31 of them donated. It now has some 20,000 patrons.
For information, go to www.monroetpl.org.