After 11 Years, Linda Feaster Retiring as LBI Branch Library Manager

Nov 29, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill Linda Feaster

At the end of December, Linda Feaster will be retiring as manager of the Long Beach Island branch of the Ocean County Library in Surf City. Hired in March 2006, Feaster has had a long history with the branch, beginning in the 1980s when she and her husband, Wayne Feaster, were active with the Friends of the Island Library in securing the Surf City facility as a permanent site. The couple are the longtime owners of Island Audio Video (formerly Island Record Shop) in Ship Bottom, where they reside.

Feaster’s interest in a library career was spawned in 1991, when her daughter, Halley (today an accomplished cellist, bassist and songwriter), had started kindergarten at the Ethel A. Jacobsen School in Surf City. She got a volunteer position with the LBI Consolidated School District.

“I was working as a volunteer at their media center, sorting the card catalog and shelving,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is something I can do.’ Someone then suggested that I go to school and get my library science degree, so I went to Rutgers in 1992 and received my degree in 1995.”

Feaster was working as a school librarian at Easthampton Middle School in Burlington County when she attended an open house at the main Ocean County Library branch in Toms River in 1999.

“It was geared for people interested in working for the system, so I got two part-time jobs at the Little Egg and Berkeley branches,” said Feaster. “Eventually, I got a full-time position at Berkeley.”

She was working there when the opening to lead the LBI branch became available.

“I thought that would be so ideal – I’d just be a few minutes away from home,” said Feaster.

During her tenure, the branch celebrated its 20th and 25th anniversaries.

“For our 20th anniversary, the Friends bought us a new circulation desk,“ she said. “That seemed to set off more changes to the building.”

Those include new carpeting, repainted walls, new siding and roof and ceiling repairs. Feaster said the Friends also bought hanging cables enabling the branch to display paintings in the meeting room/gallery, and darkening shades to show movies.

Upon retirement, Feaster joked, she has a to-do list several pages long.

“I’ll still be active with the Friends group,” she said. “I’ll also do a lot reading and writing for the Echoes of LBI (magazine), and some decorating around the home.”

Feaster said the Ocean County Library System opened its doors in Toms River in September 1925, but there were no branches. That changed in 1956, when Long Beach Township officials, with the help of the Rotary Club of LBI, got a 20- by 20-foot room in the township municipal building and became the first branch of the OCL.

“The county provided both books and library staff, and it was open every day except Sunday in the summer and one day a week in the winter,” said Feaster. “There were 3,500 books available, and many other titles could be requested from the main branch in Toms River. Yet that room was quickly outgrown; there was no room for tables and chairs and customers to read or do reference work.”

In 1959, the Friends group formed, drew up a constitution and bylaws, developed membership and took donations in the early months of the year. They searched for land, noting that the library should be centrally located on the Island. The big break came on May 19, 1959, when Oliver and Josephine Cox offered to give the Friends a 40- by 100-foot lot on West 16th Street in Ship Bottom.

“This development really got things moving, and donations began rolling in – donations of not only money, but labor, architectural plans, legal services and building material,” said Feaster.

After seven months of organizing and planning, the trenches were dug for the foundation on Aug. 25, 1959. On Aug. 22, a ceremony was held and the cornerstone was dedicated to Josephine Thomas, a strong supporter of the library, who Feaster said passed away the week before. Her life was chronicled in a book written by her daughter, Margaret Thomas Buchhholz, titled Josephine: From Washington Working Girl to Fisherman’s Wife.

“Yet, within 10 years, what had been considered spacious at 1,750 square feet that should house a recommended 10,000 to 15,000 (books) contained more than 20,000 books and had become the third busiest branch in the system,” said Feaster.

Eventually, the Friends had to obtain a larger facility, an effort that began in the early 1980s. She recalled the towns paid for a study in 1985 concluding that the Island library was by all standards inadequate for the population. It made recommendations for a larger facility to be built. Ground was broken for the library’s current site on March 15, 1988, and the doors to the 7,000-square-foot building opened on May 7, 1989.

Unlike the branches on the mainland, the LBI facility is in a seasonal location.

“We currently have 7,271 registered borrowers at our branch,” said Feaster. “In July and August, we get more than 100 new card members per month. There are more than 40,000 volumes of books, CDs and DVDs housed here. Our staff does more than 12,000 checkouts in the month of July and 5,100 in October.”

Se said the numbers of people who come to the library in one day fluctuate according to the season.

“July and August are our biggest months, when we see an average of 400 people a day,” said Feaster. “Our busiest day is usually July 5. This year, 576 people came to the library that day. In the month of July, there were more than 9,800 visitors to the library; in August, more than 10,650. In contrast, about 4,900 people per month come to the library in October, or between 140 to 250 per day.”

She said the public computers are used approximately 1,000 times a month in July, and wireless users total more than 1,400. In October, those numbers go down to about 560 and 700 respectively.

“In October, we had 37 programs with 536 people attending,” she said. “In July, we held 27 programs, with 715 attending.”

On Monday, Dec. 11, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., the branch will host an open house to honor Feaster on her retirement. This is a drop-in event open to all.

Toni Smirniw, a former librarian at the LBI branch, will take over as manager in January. She is currently in charge of the Tuckerton branch. 

For more information on the open house, call the branch at 609-494-2480.

— Eric Englund

ericenglund@thesandpaper.net

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