After 16 Years, Melissa Kopecky Retires as Director of South Orange Library

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With tears and expressions of love, the South Orange Board of Trustees bade a fond farewell to Library Director Melissa Kopecky on her retirement after 16 years at the helm of the South Orange Public Library.

After Village President Sheena Collum read a proclamation (see below), Kopecky said she started at the library around the time of September 11, 2001, and quickly learned that libraries could serve as “a sanctuary and truly a beacon … the real heart of the community.”

“I tell people I am the luckiest library director anywhere because I have a great staff,” said Kopecky. “The other thing is, being a library director is a really cool thing,” because it gave her the opportunity to provide “resources for people to follow their own interests” while learning and implementing emerging technologies.

“It feels like cheating to have nice things said about me when the staff itself, the community itself has made it possible,” said Kopecky.

Trustees became emotional when lauding Kopecky. Both Karen Hilton and Walter Clarke noted that they came to know her through their then-young children.

“Creativity flows from every fiber of your being and we are so much better for having you share your talents with us,” said Hilton.


Melissa Kopecky. Photo by Matthew Peyton.

From the SOPL Board of Trustees:

The Board of Trustees of the South Orange​ Public​ Library announces the retirement of Melissa Kopecky, who has served as Library Director for 16 years.

Melissa has been instrumental in shepherding the library during a crucial moment — the ambitious renovation plan to create a 21st century library and the effort to secure financing for the project through the New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act, which we hope to hear about before the end of the year.

She has been tireless in promoting the library and engaging the support and involvement of various constituencies, including Seton Hall, the Rotary Club and the Community Coalition on Race, the South Orange Village Center Alliance, the Community Relations Committee and other Essex County libraries. .

Melissa has not only been a dogged champion of the library, but has also been an advocate for preserving the community’s history, from the local history wiki to the conservation of the historic Connett building.

“Melissa has been very creative and has had a positive impact on the library and the community during her many years of service,” said Hildy Karp, the president of the Board of Trustees.

The board thanks Melissa for all her contributions and wishes her well in her retirement.


WHEREAS, Melissa Kopecky has dutifully served the Township of South Orange Village at the Library for over twenty years; and

WHEREAS, throughout her tenure as Director for the past seventeen years, Melissa Kopecky demonstrated foresight, leadership, innovation, deep perspective, decisive action, and collaboration within community organizations and beyond; and

WHEREAS, through her many accomplishments as Director of South Orange Public Library, in the last 17 years, Melissa has turned SOPL into a vital 21st-century resource: welcome to all, on the cutting edge of technology, and well-positioned for the future; and

WHEREAS, Melissa has articulated and sustained a vision of the Library as an essential pillar of the community, during difficult times such as in the days following Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020; and for decades to come through her tireless championing of the forthcoming Library construction project; and

WHEREAS, those who had the pleasure of working with Melissa will truly miss her enthusiasm, camaraderie, and dedication; and her open-mindedness, asking for and implementing feedback from staff, empowering them to think big and creatively; and

WHEREAS, the Village President and Board of Trustees, on behalf of all Department Heads, municipal workforce, and residents of South Orange Village, wish to express their sincerest gratitude and appreciation to Melissa Kopecky for her dedicated service to the Village; now

THEREFORE, BE IT PROCLAIMED by the Village President of the Township of South Orange Village that the Village community does hereby express its sincerest appreciation to Melissa Kopecky for her professional leadership, innovation in the administration of our Department of, and dedication extended throughout her tenure as Director for the betterment of our community, and wish her the best in all future endeavors.

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