Backlash but then Bonding: Response to Clara Barton Library Move



The Clara Barton library branch.

In September 2022, Edison Mayor Sam Joshi and his administration announced plans to relocate Clara Barton Library from Hoover Avenue to a retail space on Amboy Avenue. Joshi’s original plans were to use the original space for a new special needs programming and recreational center, which Edison currently lacks.

The relocation had come as a surprise to citizens, causing a wave of panic in the surrounding communities.

“The community itself did not really realize what was happening,” said library treasurer Patricia Massey. “Perhaps they did not see the notice the mayor had put out, at the time I don’t think anyone was really prepared.”

The sudden announcement worried citizens, many of whom believed a relocation would be detrimental to library use.

A relocation also brought forth uncertainties to the library staff.

“It wasn’t the idea of moving that affected us as we’re flexible, but a lot of it was about where and when since we had no real dates,” said Ms. Caroline Aversano, an Edison librarian working at all three Edison branches.

With such uncertainty, library staff waited on edge for each update on the library, unable to provide concerned citizens with information about the plans.

“What really impacted things was we were unsure if the move was possible,” said Massey. “There were times of uncertainty. We weren’t sure if or when the building had to be vacated.”

On January 3, 2023, residents from communities surrounding the Clara Barton Library came together to protest the relocation, bringing their beliefs to the attention of Mayor Joshi. Following the protest, Joshi held a meeting with the community on January 12, 2023 at the Clara Barton First Aid Squad Building to properly inform citizens of the plan, where numerous residents explained the importance of the library as a community center at its current location.

“It was nice to see community members coming together to express positive opinions about something like a library, especially when libraries across the United States are fighting book bans and, in general, staying open,” Aversano said.

Eventually, on January 19, 2023, Mayor Joshi released a statement to Edison residents stating that the Clara Barton branch would remain on Hoover Avenue. Instead, a new location would be found for the programming center that was supposed to be built in the library’s place.

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  • The children’s book section of the Clara Barton library.

  • The mystery section of the Clara Barton library branch.

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With such difficulties came new frontiers for the Clara Barton Library, though.

“You wouldn’t believe how many people have come up to me not even knowing the Clara Barton library was there. Some people maybe thought it was an office building of some sort,” said Massey.

Relocation news has brought a new spotlight upon the library, a platform the library council expects to use to bring more Edison residents to the branch in the near future.

“The whole experience really wound up being positive even though it was so difficult, it really helped community members throughout the entire township, put a spotlight on the library, and make plans to make it more visible to the public,” said Massey.