Before he passed away in 2018, Roth, a Newark native, decided to donate his personal collection of some seven thousand books to the library, including first editions of the more than thirty books of fiction and nonfiction he wrote over his fifty-year writing career, and established an endowment at the Community Foundation of New Jersey that will provide about $80,000 a year to the library for the purchase of books and other materials. "Our library sometimes struggles to buy all the books people want," NPL director Jeffrey Trzeciak told the Journal. "[Roth] knew that our budget was quite low for books....You can buy a lot of books for $80,000 per year."
Roth also left funds with CFNJ to be used at the discretion of the library for any purpose other than capital projects. The foundation has not yet received those funds, some of which are expected to come from the sale of Roth's homes.
Described by friends as extremely meticulous in all elements of his life, Roth gave the library three years from the time of his death to ready the space where his personal library would be housed and even selected the room himself — a roughly thousand-square-foot high-ceilinged space on the second floor of the main library. Funded largely by individual gifts, the renovation of the space has begun.
"My decision to locate my personal library in Newark and, specifically, in the Newark Public Library was determined by a longstanding sense of gratitude to the city where I was born in 1933 and where I was raised in the Weequahic section," Roth wrote in a 2017 letter about donating his book collection. "I had a happy childhood here."