This Is Rutherford
This is Jane Tarantino
Updated: Sep 18, 2021
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo credits: Jennifer Capoano and the Rutherford Public Library
Whether someone has been a lifelong Rutherford resident, attended Rutherford Public schools, or raised children in Rutherford, there is a very good chance they know who “Miss Jane” is and where they can find her in the Library. For fifty years, Mrs. Jane Tarantino has been the Children’s Librarian at the Rutherford Public Library. Generations of children have joined her for Storytime, have taken a school bus to see her and learn more about the Library with their elementary school classes, and have discovered that “Miss Jane” can always help them find a special book. This is Rutherford spoke with Jane Tarantino about her career so far, the changes she has seen, and the reasons that she loves her job.
TIR. Did you go to college to study library sciences?
Jane Tarantino: I attended William Paterson University and began my time there enrolled in the nursing program. I had just completed the EMT program, was riding the Rutherford Volunteer Ambulance, and knew that any career path that I chose had to be anchored in being able to help people. I stayed in the nursing program for two and a half years and then transferred within the university to the Bachelor of Arts in English program. I had already been working at the Rutherford Library and decided that working in a library setting was going to be a better fit for me. Besides achieving my BA in English Literature, I simultaneously took all of the classes necessary to receive my New Jersey Professional Librarian's Certificate.
TIR: When were you hired at the Rutherford Public Library?
JT: I was hired by the Rutherford Library in September 1971.
TIR: Which positions have you held at RPL?
JT: I began working at the library as a Library Page - that person who shelves returned library items and keeps the shelves in order. As time went by I was taught how to work at the circulation desk, and also did technical processing for the Children's Department. In I979, I became the Children's Librarian.
“Miss Jane is incredible in everything she does. It is fascinating the way she speaks with the kids, performs her work, and also she makes us feel like a member of her family,” Tatiane Ontivero, ESL Teacher at the RPL explained.
TIR: How have library services changed throughout the years?
JT: The biggest change in library service over the years has been the gradual, but constant shift in our dependence on computers to help us do our work. We are also extremely fortunate to be a part of the BCCLS library consortium which is so beneficial to our patrons. The 77 libraries in BCCLS collectively have over 800,000 titles that are available for loan to our patrons.
Bridget Merli, RPL Assistant, told TIR, “Jane is admired by everyone who works with her and I am privileged to work beside her every day.”
TIR: As the Children’s Librarian, what have you found most rewarding?
JT: There are many rewarding aspects of my job - seeing a child beginning to read on their own; seeing a child so very proud to have achieved a reading goal in our Summer Reading Program; a child that returns to the library after school, after having visited the library with his class from school and having another family member in tow; having a performer present a program and seeing the delight on the faces of the children and caregivers in attendance; being able to locate a very particular, obscure title that someone is seeking; all of these bring me joy. I go home every day knowing I helped at least one person and that they left our library with the item or information they were seeking.
“Miss Jane has known our six-year-old boys since they were babies, when I’d brave the challenge of leaving the house with twin infants to attend her afternoon storytimes. But it’s been during the age of Covid that both reading - and Miss Jane - have really proven to be an indispensable part of life for me and my family. At a time where we could go nowhere, Miss Jane’s thoughtful book suggestions took us everywhere! Rutherford parents are so fortunate to have such an amazing advocate for literature and learning for their children as they do in Miss Jane,” Stephanie Kivich told TIR.
Second-grade teacher at Washington School, Wendy Rossiter, explained, “My students have always loved visiting with Miss Jane at the Rutherford Public Library. She welcomes each student with a smile and is available to help students find the perfect book. Each visit includes some stories read to the class. Her read alouds to the students include animated character voices and page-turning excitement. It's easy to see how much she enjoys reading! Rutherford is lucky to have such an amazing, thoughtful, and dedicated librarian!”
TIR: How have you seen children’s literature change throughout the years?
JT: Children's literature has become more focused on illustration as well as nonfiction content for younger readers. Beginning reader titles have become instrumental in the reading development of children. Nonfiction titles for younger children have improved substantially and grown in number exponentially, and graphic novels have become one of the most sought-after types of books.
“What is so special about Miss Jane is her genuine interest in each and every child that comes into the library. We often see Jane chatting with her smallest patrons in the sweetest way,” Nancy Martin, Head of Circulation at the Rutherford Public Library told TIR.
TIR: Why do you believe it is important to instill a love of reading at a young age?
JT: Studies have shown that reading for fun and having ready access to books makes a clear difference in a child's educational success. Children that read and/or are read to every day, develop a broad vocabulary, have increased general knowledge, and will also have an awareness of other cultures. Reading to or with your child every day, even if it is just a few minutes, strengthens the parent-child bond, and helps build understanding and self-confidence.
“Jane is simply the best! She cares about each child and she has an instinct for what kids want. She is always trying new things -- like being one of the first to set up a coding program for kids with the help of a volunteer. To many children, Miss Jane is the library!” Rhoda Portugal told TIR.
Sarah Rylick, Third-grade teacher at Washington School, shared, "We have the pleasure of meeting with Ms. Jane at the public library twice a year to get the students excited about reading as well as the overall experience of choosing books from the public library. Our students are always eager to see Ms. Jane when we walk through the door and look forward to guessing what book she'll read next! Each time we mention the public library, the first thing the kids say is "Ms. Jane!", and that is a true testament to her dedicated work at the public library."
TIR: What have you enjoyed about your career so far?
JT: What I enjoy most about my job is that every single day is different as well as challenging. I am also very privileged to work with an incredible team of people - they are kind, extremely intelligent, dedicated, fun to be with, supportive of each other, and devoted to making sure the Rutherford Public Library is an exceptional library.
“Miss Jane is a wonderful children's librarian who ignites a love for reading and books to all she meets,” explained Lauren Walsh, RPL Library Associate.
Library Director, Gretchen Corsillo, explained, “It is an absolute pleasure to work with Jane. It's incredibly rare to find someone as dedicated to serving her community and championing library services to children. She is truly inspiring, and Rutherford is so lucky to have her! 50 years is an amazing milestone, and we would not be the same library without her.”