July 12, 2010
Newark Library Sees Drastic Cuts
July 8, 2010
NEWARK – As the result of a $2.45 million cut by Mayor Cory A. Booker and council, the state's largest municipal library will see more severe service cuts this summer including layoffs, additional furlough days, the permanent closing of two branches and the Main Library's opening three to four days a week.
"This cut is the most severe in the library's history," said Library Director Wilma J. Grey. "We're talking about the library's survival."
About 40 people attended a community meeting June 30 at the North End Branch Library located at 722 Summer Ave. Grey made a presentation on how the 11-branch system intends to cope with the cuts.
Grey prefaced her remarks by saying that the cuts came from Newark's government and not the state. Newark and other public municipal, county and college libraries have had to weather Gov. Christopher Christie's proposed a $10.4 million - or 74 percent - cut in state aid and a bill that would have eliminated a minimum library funding level.
A New Jersey Library Association-organized grassroots campaign got the Christie administration and state legislators to restore $6 million for the 2010/11 fiscal year. Grey noted, however, that the City of Newark supplies 90 percent of NPL's overall budget.
Grey further explained that NPL had coped with a 10 percent reduction - amounting to $10 to $15 million - that the city had imposed on all departments in January. The Roseville Branch Library, at 99 Fifth St., was to have been closed Jan. 6.
"We got the bad news from the city May 17 and the Library Board of Trustees went into triage at their May 26 meeting," said Grey. "The $2.45 million loss, while coming at the start of the city's fiscal year (which started July 1), comes in the middle of our budget's calendar year."
Booker and the council announced last month that the city is facing a $180 million budget deficit. The deficit's causes include the current global recession, the reduction of state aid and the exhaustion of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's court settlement fund.
Grey explained that the library system has to absorb a year-long 20 percent cut in 2010's last six months. That July-December compression becomes more like a 40 percent cut in jobs and services.
Grey spoke with library trustees Sandra King and Jim Crist. King and Crist also fielded audience questions and urged petitioning the city council.
According to a June 29 published report, Rutgers-Newark history professor and 25-year trustee Dr. Clement A. Price likened the 40 percent cut as a crisis more severe to the library than the Great Depression era 1930s and immediately after the July 12-17, 1967 riots or rebellion.
"This is scarier because it is real," said Dr. Price of the cuts. "The cuts are almost in place."
Reducing NPL's services, said Grey and King, would have statewide effects. Newark's libraries are a cornerstone to the state and Essex County regional library lending networks. Patrons come from all over to use the Charles F. Cummings New Jersey Information Room for local and state history research.
Newark's pending cuts may reflect or amplify those facing libraries elsewhere - including those in Local Talk's towns. Maplewood and South Orange's public libraries, for example, are subject to their municipalities' budget-induced furloughs.
The Montclair public libraries went to a reduced schedule last spring. Monday patrons have to go to Montclair's Bellevue Avenue branch in Upper Montclair since the main library is closed; the main library is mostly open and the Bellevue Branch is closed the rest of the week.
Montclair Library Director David Hinkley told Mayor Jerry Fried and the Township Council at a recent meeting that their $700,000 cut may affect the institution's survival. One councilman, at the same meeting, questioned the Bellevue Branch's need - although it is on the state and national historic registers.
"I was approached by a patron at a branch who asked if I had remembered her receiving a book from me 10 years ago," said Grey. "She said that the book by Margaret Meade led her to become a teacher in anthropology. How many opportunities to affect our young peoples' lives will be lost?"
Grey's future community meetings are set for July 14 at 6 p.m. at Vailsburg Branch, 75 Alexander St., July 21 - Van Buren Branch, 140 Van Buren St., Aug. 4 - Springfield Branch, 50 Hayes St.
Posted by tumulty at July 12, 2010 12:33 PM
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