Library’s Common Heritage initiative will explore “The Evolution of a Thriving Community: From Farming to Fortune 500 and Beyond”

The Somerset County Library System of New Jersey (SCLSNJ) has been awarded a $12,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant spanning January 2018 through June 2019.

“Public institutions like the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey serve as a critical resource to communities across the nation,” said U.S. Senator Cory Booker. “This federal investment will help preserve New Jersey’s diverse culture while showcasing the rich history found throughout Somerset County. I applaud the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey for embarking on this unique educational initiative that will serve generations of New Jerseyans to come.”

“We are excited and honored to receive such a grant to continue to preserve the history, culture and diversity of Somerset County,” said Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman, (R16).

This grant will support the Library’s mission to connect, to explore, to share, and to discover by allowing SCLSNJ to collect, catalog, and preserve the collective memories of Somerset County residents.

“This grant will enable the Library System to expand upon a historical-memories initiative that was announced during the celebration of Somerset County’s 325th anniversary in 2013,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Patrick Scaglione, library liaison. “This is an excellent opportunity to preserve the memories and mementos of the diverse citizens who call our county home.”

“We are excited to be recipients of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Common Heritage grant for 2018/2019, and are honored to be among the 253 humanities projects that were funded by NEH across the nation,” said Technical Services Manager and Grant Coordinator Rebecca Sandoval Sloat.

Continued Sandoval Sloat, “this is a wonderful opportunity for SCLSNJ to build upon our community’s history by digitally preserving the personal items of our community members. During the 18-month grant period we will be presenting a series of engaging programs, including digitization days where our patrons can bring in photographs, textiles, journals, or anything that they would like to be preserved as part of Somerset County’s history.”

SCLSNJ will make these collective memories available for research and the use of future generations by contributing digitized items to Rutgers University’s New Jersey Digital Highway, and by making them available in our library’s online catalog, and eventually, the Digital Public Library of America.

“This is an exciting opportunity to participate in the creation and promotion of our local and national heritage,” said Director of Operations Lynn Hoffman. “The preservation of history and the fostering of community are goals of Libraries and librarians nationwide. As we install new media technologies and host digitization days, our community members will be able to contribute their personal memories to the collective memory of Somerset County. Then our expert catalogers will do their magic in the background to index and organize their contributions so that these memories can be searched and discovered by everyone. For a lifelong Library lover like me, this project is a dream come true.”

Somerset County is a true cultural mosaic – from an Eastern European community in Manville to an early German and later Latin American community in North Plainfield to an African-American heritage in Somerville dating back to Paul Robeson.

From its earliest history, Somerset County has grown from an epicenter of the farming industry to become a diverse community comprised of over 333,000 people, boasting over 8,000 acres of preserved farmland while also being home to powerhouse Fortune 500 companies like Bloomberg, Johnson & Johnson, and Sanofi-Aventis.

SCLSNJ will begin building community memories by embarking on a programming series coupled with eight digitization events. The Somerset County community will have the opportunity to learn about their history while also preserving it.

Program topics will include the development of a complex transportation system to the history of its landowners and land development to the thriving, complex housing community we have today, to crops and resulting foods native to the area. By focusing on these areas, community members will learn about their shared heritage simply by being neighbors.

The following community organizations will be partnering with SCLSNJ through the course of this eighteen-month project: The Board of Chosen Freeholders, Somerset County; The Courier News/; the Franklin Township Public Library; the New Jersey Council for the Humanities; and Somerset County Historical Society

The Somerset County Library System of New Jersey Common Heritage initiative has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in these Library programs do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

To learn more about the NEH grant program visit

About the National Endowment for the Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent federal agency created in 1965. It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States. Because democracy demands wisdom, NEH serves and strengthens our republic by promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans. The Endowment accomplishes this mission by awarding grants for top-rated proposals examined by panels of independent, external reviewers. Learn more at