In January 1921 the Clifton Free Public Library opened in a storefront on Main Avenue between Clifton and Madison Avenues with 440 books. It moved several times in its early years — first in 1929 to Union Avenue over the Clifton Post Office, then in 1938 to Clifton Avenue near Main Avenue, and then in 1943 to a converted Victorian house at 99 First Street.
By 1950 the Library held nearly 33,000 volumes. In December of that year, a traveling branch library service was inaugurated. In 1969 the Bookmobile was servicing seventeen community stops and nine schools during the winter months, plus the city’s playgrounds during the summer.
To meet the needs of the city’s expanding post-war population, a new home was planned for the Library. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held at Piaget Avenue and Third Street in April 1952 and the building opened later that year. When the dedication ceremony was held in January of 1953, the Library was named The Clifton Memorial Library in honor of Clifton’s war dead.
Groundbreaking for a branch library in the Allwood section of Clifton took place in 1969. The Allwood Women’s Club had started the Branch in the late 1930s with a donation of 250 books housed in Public School Number 9. This section of the city finally got its own library building when the Allwood Library was dedicated in May of 1970.
By the late 1980s it was obvious the Main Memorial Library had outgrown its space. The decision was made to build a new building rather than expand. The current Clifton Memorial Library, built adjacent to the original building, was dedicated in May 1991. The Library is located on the edge of tree-filled Main Memorial Park. Three sculptures by artist Leon Gerst stand on the library grounds. In 2000 a memorial “Garden of Thanks” was added near the front entrance in memory of Theresa “Terri” Wenger, long time library supporter and benefactor.