Around the world in Hoboken

Friends of the Hoboken Public Library present ‘Novel Night’

One night per year, 20 doors in Hoboken open up to more than just a regular home, apartment, or brownstone. The other side of the door leads to a foreign custom, a far away place, and even a different time. The men and women who enter can choose where they would like to travel around the world, while remaining in the Mile Square City. Does it sound confusing, or strange? It’s not. It’s Novel Night, an annual fundraiser for the library.
Novel Night was established in 2007, and serves as an annual fund-raiser to benefit the Hoboken Public Library. The event is organized by the ‘Friends of the Hoboken Public Library’ and took place on the evening of Oct. 16.

A trip through time

One door in Hoboken opened onto a visit to 18th century England. The hosts, in costume, prepared a meal to celebrate Henry Fielding’s “A History of Tom Jones.” The novel, published in 1749, is a comic novel which also acted as a social commentary. The 10 guests who sat around the table in the basement of the Ninth Street apartment dined on delicious soups, lobster, oysters, and chicken and potatoes. A wine accompanied each course of the meal, which were selected perfectly by the hosts.
How does eating a delicious meal set to the theme of a book help fund the library? Each guest pays $100 for Novel Night, and the proceeds go to the Hoboken Public Library. The guests “travelling” to 18th century England consisted of long-time Hoboken residents, new age Hobokenites, and even some out-of-towners who looked to contribute to what they felt was a worthwhile cause.


“I’ve been going for three years, and I’ve never been disappointed.” – Lina Podles, Director of the Hoboken Public Library

In addition to a trip to England, guests could have found themselves anywhere around the world on the Saturday evening in Hoboken. One apartment took guests to Bangkok, celebrated with Thai food set to “Bangkok 8” by John Burdett. Other doors revealed trips to Paris, Russia, Istanbul, and even one dinner set to the “Last Dinner on the Titanic.” Luckily, this event was not held near 14th Street and Sinatra Drive.
Guests had the opportunity to choose between 20 dinners, each set to the theme of different novels. The hosts choose the theme of the dinner, and prepare a meal for a group of guests.

Importance of the fundraiser
“[Novel Night] brings awareness to the needs of the library,” said Lina Podles, Hoboken Public Library Director. “It attracts people’s attention to reading and the fun of reading.”
In addition to raising necessary funds for the library in a time when cuts have become the norm, Podles sees a great need for Novel Night.
“It’s a nice culture event for the city of Hoboken,” Podles said. It’s the perfect blend of reading for education and reading for fun.”
Local organizations from around the city donated chocolates and desserts for a gathering at the library, which took place after the dinners across the city finished. The gathering at the library served as the final stop, where conversations ranged from city politics to the importance of funding to keep the Hoboken library special.
“The Friends of the Library traditionally have interests in funding children’s programming and historical preservation,” Podles said. “The funds from Novel Night have traditionally been toward the historical preservation of the library.”
One host family on Ninth Street said it was their first time hosting, but thought it would be a great idea after attending the event in previous years. They said one feature of the library they enjoy is an online database for books because of the ease of finding, locating, and eventually reading the texts. One guest agreed, and said it was a way that the new-age internet based world meets the needs of the library. Other discussions over dinner included hotspots around Hoboken, and where each guest enjoyed their favorite meal. After speaking of many old-time Hoboken landmarks which have gone out of business, one resident said he’ll never go anywhere but Schnackenburg’s Luncheonette for a tuna sandwich.
The turnout over the years has been stable, with around 20 hosts welcoming library supporters into their home on an annual basis.
“The hosts pick the book,” Podles said. “They try to tie the menu toward a geographical area. The people who go don’t know what’s going to be on the menu. I’ve been going for three years, and I’ve never been disappointed.”
Ruth Charnes is the chairperson for Novel Night 2010.
“We’ve done it three times,” Charnes said. “We skipped last year because of the economic crisis but we are back again. The gracious hosts are fabulous. They are a key element in making this event as special as it is.”
Charnes also thanked the guests for their support this year.

A milestone week for the library

This year was a special Novel Night, because the Saturday evening fundraiser was three days shy of the celebration of the 120th birthday of the Hoboken Library (which was celebrated on Tuesday, complete with a birthday cake). Supporters of the library were on-hand on Tuesday night at the Hoboken Public Library and Stevens Institute of Technology library to view a Power Point presentation by the reference staff about the history of Hoboken’s library. The focus of the event included the philanthropic involvement of the Stevens family. A theatrical performance by Florence Pape about the life of Nina Hatfield, the first female librarian at the Hoboken Public Library, also took place.
As the number of bookstores in Hoboken diminishes, the Friends of the Library continue to make sure that the doors of the Hoboken Public Library stay open forever.


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