The Hawthorne Library began in 1913 when a small group of concerned citizens formed the Hawthorne Public Library Association. Two rooms located in the old Post Office building were rented for $13 per month to house a small collection of donated books. A janitor was hired for 25 cents a month and bookcases and furniture were donated to fill the rooms. Teachers volunteered as Library aides to Director Mrs. D'Archambaud and the Board of Education purchased reference books.
Fund raising was as crucial in the Library's early years as it is today. In 1914, Trustee's held "Card Parties" in their private homes, which successfully generated $82 for the Library. A town fair was held in 1916, and netted another $82 for the building fund. Cake sales, card parties, tag days and magazine sales continued to generate income for future Library construction.
In 1921, the Library moved to an unused classroom in the Lafayette School. The room was used for other town meetings, so Library hours had to be adjusted on short notice to serve the needs of both Library patrons and community organizations. The room was so crowded that books were stacked on temporary shelves lined up three deep.
Setting the tone for almost a century of unwavering support for the Library and the community, the Borough appropriated $1,000 for the Library in 1927.
Finally in 1930, plans for a permanent home for the Library at 345 Lafayette Avenue were completed. The Library building was dedicated on Memorial Day in 1931 with a mortgage of $7,000. The building was completed just in time to meet the needs of students attending the new Hawthorne High School founded in 1933.
The Library evolved into a community center as time went on. For example, in 1951, Elections, Rotary meetings, Red Cross meetings, Home Nursing classes and Civil Defense Board meetings were held at the Library.
In 1957 the Library Association turned over the building and contents as a gift to the Borough, considered to have a value of $141,000. The Library was municipalized and managed by the Mayor, Superintendent of Schools, and five appointed members of the Board of Trustees.
By 1973, community use of the Library was so great that construction of a separate children's room, meeting rooms and display areas became a necessity. Long-time Mayor, Louis Bay 2nd, obtained a federal grant of $800,000 to expand the original building by 18,000 square feet. The Library was renamed Louis Bay 2nd Library and Community Center in recognition of his hard work and generous personal donation. The addition was completed in 1979. The children's department moved upstairs to the original Library. Adult books and materials, along with meeting rooms, comprised the first floor of the new building.
Also in 1979, the Bergen County Library System (BCCLS) was formed. Formal resource sharing among the Bergen County libraries began. Along the way, Hawthorne began sharing with Fair Lawn Library. In 1991, Louis Bay 2nd Library became the first out-of-county member Library in BCCLS, a move followed by 13 other non-Bergen County libraries participating in the consortium by 2011.
With continued growth, the children's room again proved to be too small. The Hawthorne Community Library Foundation was formed in 1996 to raise funds for a further expansion. The plans were designed to include a children's wing to be financed by $800,000 in fundraisers and a Special Legislative Grant of $200,000. After three rounds of bids, quotes continued to exceed the $1 million threshold. G. Abbood and Company offered to complete the project at no profit and a contract was signed for $1,000,000, with a grand opening of the children's wing in 2002. The spacious children's wing included ample extra seating, separate rooms for storytime, computers, and tutoring.
The Library continues to adapt to remain a relevant institution serving the community of Hawthorne.