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Diversity Studies Collection

The Library began development of its Diversity Studies Collection in 2003 to gather and preserve research materials on the minority groups of Plainfield.  The collection scope includes published and unpublished resources on the history, culture and literature of African Americans, the Gay and Lesbian community, the Hispanic community and the Caribbean community. Resources include monographs, periodicals, folios, sheet music, and photographs. There are related materials available in our Local Clubs and Organization, Personal Papers & Manuscripts, and Fine Arts Collections.

In Spring 2012, the article, "Diversity in Art" by Library Director Joe Da Rold, appeared in the quarterly issue of the New Jersey Library Association - History & Preservation Section’s newsletter, The Chronicle.  This piece presents a focused look into the local African-American and Latino artists of Library’s Fine Arts Collection. 

In October 2009, the Plainfield Public Library received the Community Change Award from the New Jersey Black Issues Convention for the development of our Diversity Studies Collection.

LGBT Collection

Plainfield has been enriched by the presence and contributions of Gays and Lesbians.  While many books are in the Library’s circulating collection, this special collection will include published studies of the LGBT community in New Jersey and classics of gay/lesbian literature that need to be available after they have gone out of print.

Our Clubs and Organizations Collection offers some primary source materials from local groups, including: Plainfield Area Equality and Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield (RSVP).


In addition, the Library now offers access to two editions of LGBT titles in Great Events from History. This series provides award-winning articles regarding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender events, starting with the 1848 Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention up to Oscar-winning, LGBT-themed films in 2006.

Additonal resources include Civil Disobedience, Social Justice, Nationalism & Populism, Violent Demonstrations and Race Relations; Pandemics: The Invisible Enemy, Treaties in the News, Grey House: This is Who We Were (companions to the 1940, 1950, and 1960 federal censuses), H.W. Wilson's American Book of Days and Famous First Facts.

These are available through the SALEM HISTORY database, which is freely accessible on Library computers.

Oral History Collectionsflags

Historias, 2010

In 2009, the Library was invited by StoryCorps, a not-for-profit company that conducts oral histories nationwide, to participate in a nationwide project called Historias.  This was a special initiative to record the stories of Latinos in the United States.  Working with the Plainfield Hispanic community, the library conducted eight interviews in February 2010. Countries not previously represented in our 2007 project were Cuba, Ecuador, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. Listen to the interviews here.

Adames, Jose Kuga, Alejandro Portal, Heylin
Bahamon, Leonor Kuga, Eulalia Villegas, Ricardo
Gonzalez, Flor Pastora, Idalmys  




Latinos in Conversation, 2007

Latinos in Conversation, our second oral history program, was developed to be our key Hispanic Heritage Month event in October 2007.  Working with StoryCorps, we conducted 13 interviews in two days.  The participants represented 8 countries:  Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, and Puerto Rico.  These interviews were also transcribed through a Union County History Grant. Listen to the interviews here.

Cruz, Alma Toche Maccarelli, Nilda E. Pellum, Maria C.
Escobar, Blanca Martinez, Pedro Fermin Price, Libia M.
Flores, Claudia Delgado Mesia, Luz Rosas-Amirault, Eva J.
Freire, Claudia Veronica Ortiz, Christian Segura, Luz Stella
Jimenez, Juan    


Griot Initiative, 2007

V7051In early 2007 the Plainfield Public Library was asked to host two days of oral-history interviews, conducted by StoryCorps. As part of StoryCorps’ Griot project, a Plainfield historian  arranged to capture the stories of African-Americans in Union County. Our library received copies of the 17 Plainfield interviews, which it later transcribed through funding from a Union County History Grant. Listen to the interviews here.




Bethel, Dr. Leonard L. Lee, Mary Washington, Ethel M.
Brinkley, John Meshack, Lee Shade Weston, William S.
Carter, Gloria Nettingham, Malcolm Whaley, L. Yvonne C.
Dunn, Malcolm Riley, Barbara Wright, Vernell V.
Everson, Clark Van Blake, Donald J. Young, Bernice
Henry, Dorothy Vatelle, Reginald  

Barbara Polk Riley African American Book Collection

book coverThe cornerstone of the Diversity Studies Collection is the  Barbara Polk Riley Collection of African American books.  Mrs. Riley made the initial donation of her collection to the Plainfield Public Library in 2007.  Since then there has been additional installments.  The roots of this collection stem from Dr. Charles C. Polk, her father, who began collecting in the 1920s. The collection grew as his children gave him books on African-American subjects, expanding on his initial collection.  Additions to the collection came from many sources including book stores and book clubs that specialized in black history, fiction and culture.  The books were used throughout the years as reference material for family and friends taking courses, due to the scarcity of materials available elsewhere. The tradition was continued by his daughter Barbara, who became a librarian and worked in several historically black colleges. During her career, Polk Riley met many writers who helped shape the collection and inscribed books to the Polk family. The collection numbers over 3000 books on African-American history and culture.  The collection includes hardcover and paperback, 1st editions and autographed editions.

View a list of books in the collection: by Author or by Title. The Barbara Polk Riley African American Book Collection is a non-circulating collection.

Irving Georges Photograph Collection

This collection of color prints was taken by Irving Georges, an amateur photographer who lived in Plainfield. His images document the city's African American residents in the late 1960's, 1970s and 1980s. The collection highlights adults and youth engaged in athletics, community events, and everyday activities.

The Georges collection was featured in the 2010 exhibit, Chronicles of Plainfield. More of this collection can be viewed through the Local History Collections database.



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