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Jersey City Library Renamed For First African-American Director

Priscilla Gardner (center).
Priscilla Gardner (center). Photo Credit: Jersey City Public Library

After a half-century of service, Priscilla Gardner, the director the Jersey City Public Library, will be taking a well-deserved retirement.

But even after her departure, a testament to her long legacy in Jersey City will remain: the main branch on Jersey Avenue was renamed in her honor this week.

“After 50 years of dedicated and meaningful service to our city, it is fitting that the main library be named in honor of Priscilla and all of her hard work,” said Mayor Steve Fulop.

The Jersey City Free Public Library is a valuable resource in our community, and Priscilla created a community that opened doors for people who may not otherwise have had access to books and other educational resources. The impact she has made on our city will last a lifetime.”

Gardner began as a junior library assistant in 1969, working her way up to the head of the Miller Branch in 1987, a post she held for 12 years before she was named the director of the library in 2002, a post she has held ever since. She was the first African-American to serve as director.

She started the Jersey City Free Public Library Foundation in 2004 to raise funds for the library and dramatically expanded the number of library card holders during her tenure as director, increasing the number from 30,000 in 2002 to 246,000 in 2019

“While I am beyond grateful the mayor has chosen to recognize me, I simply worked to serve as the best library director for our community and never imagined being recognized in this way,” Gardner said.

“I am excited to start this new chapter in my life, but am also thankful for the change we have been able to create in Jersey City. It is my hope that the work I started lives on, and the Jersey City community continues to have endless access to free resources through the Jersey City Free Public Library.”

Jersey City's library system consists of a main library, six branches and a Bookmobile.

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