Public library service in our town was initiated by Violet Riker, a woman with a love for helping people, full of energy, creative ideas and enthusiasm that inspired many volunteers to bring those ideas to fruition.
It all begin when Riker first moved to Milton during the Depression years and worked to establish a library under the Federal Government's works Progress Administration (WPA). When Morris County Library Services asked Riker to find a place for a library in Milton she agreed. Riker had already organized and become the first officer of the Milton PTA so she enlisted the aid of PTA members to gather and prepare books for a library station in the hallway of the White Building, a four-room school on Schoolhouse Road. (The white Building is currently used as the Senior Citizen Nutrition and Activity Center.)
Construction of the Milton School caused the public library to move from the White Building into Riker's home on Berkshire Valley Road. For fourteen years this was the base of a public free lending library until the number of books and patrons necessitated another move.
Behind the new Milton School was the Hot Lunch Building, now vacant, and the library moved in. The library officially became known as the Violet Schule Riker Public Library in honor of Violet's dedication and efforts. (Incidentally, the hot Lunch/Library building was destined to become the original home of the Milton First Aid Squad and presently is headquarters for the policemen's Benevolent Association.)
Growing pains brought about a shift in location to the old Milton Hotel (now demolished). (Township growth had required the elementary schools to be placed on split sessions and the Milton Hotel was also the site of several school classrooms.) Before long, heavy rains flooded the library basement making yet another move absolutely essential.
The last and final move for the Violet Schule Riker Public Library was in September 1960 when the library took up residence in a 100-year-old home on Dover-Milton Road just a block away from the Milton House. The Library Association purchased the little farmhouse and members of the Friends of the Library, which was organized in 1959, assisted by other volunteers helped to refurbish the home and equip it with items necessary to running the Library.
For nineteen years Violet Riker continued to increase library services and spearhead a variety of programs for the community. She worked with Lake Hopatcong area volunteers and the result was the establishment of two branch libraries under a Library Association. Both branches received budgets from the township municipal government and the loan of additional books and other services from the Morris County Free Library.
In 1979 Violet Riker moved to Sussex County and for the next twenty years continued to do what she loved resolve challenges. She established a support group for physically challenged individuals and traveled the area attending meetings and speaking to promote assistance for these individuals.
In 1979 plans were in progress for a new library building to be built on Weldon Road near the Municipal Building. These plans would include the Violet Riker Meeting Room named in her honor. On September 20, 1980 the Jefferson Township Public Library was officially opened at a dedication ceremony.
As for the little farmhouse on Dover-Milton Road, it has become exactly what Violet Riker hoped for its future... a center for history. The 1860 home is now the Jefferson Township Museum.
Written by Gloria Mikowski of the Jefferson Township Historical Society