Montgomery and Rocky Hill did not always have access to the wide array of resources now available to the community in the Mary Jacobs Memorial Library. How this remarkable asset that we now know and rely upon came about is an interesting story of community action and good fortune – and a reminder of how much Montgomery and Rocky Hill citizens need once again to come together to preserve this community treasure.
Prior to 1966, although many interested citizens had attempted to establish a library, the only public library resource available to this community was the Somerset County Bookmobile that came to the community every other week. The demand for this service was such that the Bookmobile was unable to truly meet the needs of the community’s children and adults. In 1966, with the encouragement of the Somerset County Library, the Rocky Hill Community Group established the Rocky Hill Library in a historic Rocky Hill building, the Amy Garrett House. That original small library was financed by funds from Somerset County, the Borough of Rocky Hill and the Rocky Hill Community Group.
In 1968, a wealthy Philadelphia real estate businessman named Harold Jacobs wanted to establish a living memorial to his recently deceased wife, Mary Barrowman Jacobs, who had grown up in Rocky Hill. In consultation with local Rocky Hill residents Laura Stabler, Gloria Mack, and Martha Allen, Harold agreed that a new library for the community would be a fitting remembrance, and agreed to bequeath $800,000 in perpetual trust for a library building to be named for his wife, Mary. The Mary Jacobs Library Foundation was formed and the construction of a new library building next to the Amy Garrett house commenced in 1973, and that building formed the original core of the current Mary Jacobs Memorial Library building.
The fact that the Mary Jacobs Memorial Library Foundation paid for the construction of a new and much needed library building was a huge financial boon to Montgomery and Rocky Hill taxpayers, who would otherwise have had to pay for a library building out of tax dollars.
The Mary Jacobs Memorial Library is a part of the Somerset County Library System, which means tax dollars pay for the resources, such as the books and digital media, the staff, and most programs. The Library is unique in that the building and grounds are owned and maintained not by the county or the local government, but by a private, non-profit foundation: Mary Jacobs Memorial Library Foundation.
Thanks to the financial support of the Foundation, the Library building has been expanded three separate times in order to accommodate the growth of the Library’s collection:
- In 1981, there was an addition of a wing for reference and adult fiction.
- In 1992, there was a wing for non-fiction and the circulation desk added.
- In 2005, expansions almost doubled the size of the library and created the beautiful Children’s Services wing.
For over 40 years, the Foundation has paid for all the operating expenses of the Library’s building and grounds, with help from voluntary contributions from generous community members and businesses.
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Who Was Mary Barrowman Jacobs?– Brenda Thurlow, Montgomery News 1996