November 23, 2011
Montclair Library to ask that funding be restored for hours, materials
November 22, 2011
BY T.D. SHOUDY
The Montclair Times
The Montclair Public Library Board of Trustees will ask that funding be restored for hours at the Bellevue Avenue Branch, materials, and facility maintenance when they give a budget presentation next week before the township manager.
Montclair Library to ask that funding be restored for hours, materials
Members of the Montclair Public Library Board of Trustees meet tonight, Nov. 22, and discuss forecasting the budget for next year. "All three of those items have suffered greatly under the 2011 budget," Library Director David Hinkley said tonight during a library board meeting, noting there is not yet a proposed dollar amount.
The library is operating with a $2.7 million budget, which is underfunded by about $300,000, according to Hinkley and Board Treasurer Wil Adkins. Of the total budget, about $2.5 million is the municipal allocation, Hinkley said.
In its first formal discussion with the town, library officials will talk about available funding for the library, "and what it would mean to the library in terms of operations," Board President Frank Lawatsch Jr. told The Times earlier today.
"We'd like to see some of our budget restored," Lawatsch said. "We could improve our hours of operation in both buildings."
But Montclair Mayor Jerry Fried said some relief might be in sight.
"I think there's a real possibility in an increase in funding this year," Fried told The Times.
Although the possibility of library funding cuts looms because of a decline in property values in Montclair this year, Fried said, the mayor will nonetheless push to restore dollars.
"There have been a lot of tax appeals," Fried said.
"I, for one, am going to advocate for restoration of some funding to the library because they've had to shoulder a much higher burden of cuts than almost all other township functions. That was a product of difficult decisions that had to be made by the council in response to the economic downturn."
Despite the financial hardships and working with a skeletal staff, the library has so far this year seen approximately 286,000 patrons, 21,000 more than last year. "That's enormous," said board member Cliff Kulwin, who pointed out that visits and circulation is high despite the library being forced to cut hours. The main library is open 52 hours a week as opposed to 62 last year, and the branch is open 10 hours a week, compared to 35 in 2009, officials said.
If things go the way the library trustees hope, the Bellevue Branch Library could remain open without the worry of possible closure. It was temporarily shut in January but reopened in June with the help of volunteers and fundraising assistance from the Montclair Public Library Foundation.
"I would hope [we will] not face that kind of situation," Lawatsch said. "We're optimistic that the library will be able to get some of its budget restored. That would help us offer services we've had to curtail this year."
Added Lawatsch, "We basically were unable to purchase much in the way of materials. Our budget for new purchases of books, for example, was cut back dramatically. We relied on the foundation to assist us in buying materials, which historically has been paid for as part of the town's allocations. But they don't have the resources to replace what town provided us."
If the library budget was to be slashed further, it would result in more cutbacks in services, said Lawatsch, adding that in the worst case scenario, "It's a question of whether the branch could stay open at all if we have further cutbacks. But we don't anticipate that to happen."
The library is near to completing a months-long strategic plan, and all that's left is to administer a focus group for teachers, and another for influences in the town, Adkins said.
Lori McConnell, who is a member of the Friends of the Bellevue Avenue Library, told the trustees tonight that they have the support of the community behind them. "I am hoping that this year in the budget process you can make use of the goodwill you have in town," McConnell said.
During tonight's meeting, the trustees unanimously passed a resolution honoring Library Division Chief Caroline Brown, who tendered her resignation effective Nov. 25.
As Lawatsch read the resolution aloud, he noted her "years of productive dedicated service" in the library since 1977 when Brown was first employed as a page. She had since worked in many departments, and also was acting library director in 2004. She received numerous commendations, including a 1982 letter from Marlis Powell, then president of the board, who had expressed "her appreciation to Caroline for her essential role during that year's library move."
"Caroline Brown's professionalism and personal touch will be deeply missed by the Montclair Public Library employees," the resolution stated. "The Montclair Public Library Board of Trustees extends its best wishes to Caroline Brown as she embarks on the next chapter of her life."
Hinkley told The Times after the meeting, "I'm sad that she's leaving. It's a loss to the library."
Contact T.D. Shoudy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 21, 2011
Libraries become job-search resource centers
November 18, 2011
BY JOHN A. GAVIN
Across North Jersey and throughout the state, libraries are becoming a bridge to help the unemployed and underemployed develop basic computer skills needed to find a job in today's high-tech market.
Financed by a federal grant, the computer classes help residents learn basic skills such as filling out job applications on the Internet and drafting and sending résumés as attachments – skills that were not as essential a decade ago.
In Hasbrouck Heights on Thursday, 10 adults who acknowledged that their job-seeking skills need improvement took part in the first day of a two-day workshop designed to acquire those skills, one of more than 100 such programs in the state.
"We believe in helping our community with the economic recovery and bettering the people that we serve," said Mimi Hui, the librarian. "And why not? We want to help them get back on their feet. We want to provide information and help them with lifelong learning."
Funded by the $5.1 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and matching funds of $1.5 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the program has implemented 521 training programs since March at 124 public libraries, state officials said.
For residents like Donna Fackelman, who left the job market in the 1990s to raise a family, the training is a chance to catch up on skills.
"I mostly did basic word processing," said Fackelman, of Hasbrouck Heights, a former secretary. "I want to learn how to do it right."
Regina Imperato, who has given instructions at several libraries, including Lodi, Westwood, Garfield, Dumont and Cresskill, said job seekers who have not had to look for work in several years face particular challenges.
Most employers require applicants to fill out job applications online, even if they will not need to work in an office.
With the state's jobless rate at record levels, local and state officials said libraries are filling a need.
More than 5,000 people have participated in the program, state officials said.
"What we are finding is that people are coming into libraries; not only have some of them never been out of work before — some of them have never sat in front of a computer before," said Peggy Cadigan, the state's acting librarian. An advantage of libraries is that they're open evenings and weekends, she said. "Librarians are really good-hearted people, and they'll sit down with somebody and say, 'Here's a mouse. Here's how you go online.' "
Cost of funding county libraries becoming larger issue for municipalities
Posted: Friday, November 18, 2011 8:19 pm
Press of Atlantic City
Nov. 19, 2011
By STEVEN LEMONGELLO,
The vote was close - a margin of just 12 votes - but a referendum in Longport this month ended in defeat for those who wanted to break away from the Atlantic County Library System and form their own library.
Longport Mayor Nick Russo said he's willing to try again - in part blaming what he called a"misleading" flier from a library group - but the situation raises a number of issues that could have a long-lasting impact on county libraries.
More affluent towns such as Longport are critical in supporting county library branches and services in smaller, less affluent communities - but many of those same towns are seeking to lessen their tax rates and might find the idea of controlling their own library appealing, as Avalon did when it split of from Cape May County's system in 2002.
So in a time of increased shared services, could one of the oldest shared services in New Jersey - county libraries - be facing a difficult future?
"It depends on who pulls out and how many," said Cape May County Library Director Deborah Poillon. "Obviously, the shore communities put a lot of money into the county system. Losing Avalon did hurt us some, but when they pulled out, the boom times were still in effect. But if Avalon were still in the county system, the library tax rate would be much lower."
County libraries are funded through property taxes from all towns without their own municipal library, whether they have a branch or not. The library tax rate is equalized - so towns pay more or less depending on how their assessments match up with the current market rates.
In 2011, for example, the Atlantic County rate averaged out to about 2.8 cents per $100 of assessed value, or about $28 per $100,000, said the county's library director, Karen George. Individual towns, however, had rates as disparate as 6.2 cents per $100 in Mullica Township or 2.8 cents in Brigantine. Longport's rate was 4.3 cents.
Towns that operate municipal libraries, on the other hand, use the "third of a mil" formula, which is always 3.3 cents per $100.
"The funding structure is not an easy thing," said Pamela Tumulty, the executive director of the New Jersey Library Association. "Longport has been in the county library system for so long, if they pulled out it would have a significant impact on the county library system."
The association, Tumulty said, "supports the process of doing what (Longport) did by referendum. The public needs to have a voice."
Longport's referendum was defeated 171-159, including mail-in ballots, a result that Russo said he was disappointed by.
"I really believe that voters may not have understood the issue," Russo said.
He said that Longport pays more than $650,000 in library taxes to the county, but the cost of operating the Longport branch is about $255,000.
"That's a difference of $400,000 not staying in Longport," Russo said. A committee, he added, "overwhelmingly concluded that Longport should leave the Atlantic County System."
Russo cited a flier distributed by the nonprofit Atlantic County Library Foundation, which said a "yes" vote would mean "No more Longport branch", "All books ... relocated" and "higher library taxes in Longport for at least 8-10 years."
"It's misleading, and I find that unconscionable," Russo said, adding that the borough planned to create its own library. "I don't believe it's a dead issue. ... We're really talking about six votes one way or another. I believe it would be prudent to revisit it now that we know there's a special interest group that does not want to see Longport leave the system."
Foundation President Luann Amodeo, who has personal experience with such a move from when Linwood left the system in the late 1980s, said that the group "was just getting factual information out there of what to expect when a branch pulls out."
Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson agreed that there was "nothing misleading about what the foundation wrote."
The books and equipment, Levinson said, "are owned by the county library and if they left the system (the county system) would certainly take the books back. ... They'd have to buy (their own) books, computers, magazines, videos, all the things you have to put into a library for it to get accredited. It's not an easy thing to do and it's not cheap."
As to the other claims, George said that Longport would have still paid into the county system for two years - "It gives us a chance to absorb the change in our funding," she said - and that a 2010 law mandates that a city's municipal budget would not get back any surplus funds from library budgets for eight years.
Levinson also criticized Russo for talking about another referendum, saying that "If a mayoral election is a close vote, should we have another vote on that one also? ... If Longport were to leave, I don't have a problem, but the people have spoken. Should they keep paying for an election every year until they get it the way they want it? That's not how the system works."
Still, Russo said that "Even though taxpayers may not have seen immediate relief, we would have had better, more local control of taxpayer money."
In Cape May County, Poillon said, "If one other big town were to pull out, we'd probably be OK with general services, but some things we do like computers and databases, we'd have to look at trimming some services back."
As for whether any towns might look at pulling out, Poillon said "We always hear rumors."
Tumulty said she was familiar with Cumberland County, which has a different funding system and includes both county branches and municipal libraries in Bridgeton and Vineland - and there has been talk of ending the county system.
"For many people, you need a close facility," said Tumulty. "If you close the Cumberland County libraries, the Bridgeton library is a very small facility, so people might have to drive to the county college. For people of poorer economic status, a library can be a community focal point. You can't even apply for a job without internet access. Some governments only put information online. If you have to drive 25 minutes every day (to the nearest library), you disenfranchise people."
The same situation might happen if county branches were to close if more towns pulled out, she said.
"Libraries are not frills," she said. "People need a facility they can use. It's an essential part of doing anything."
Contact Steven Lemongello:
Bridgeton library to temporarily close for overdue repairs
NJ.com November 07, 2011,
By Greg Adomaitis/The News of Cumberland County The News of Cumberland County
BRIDGETON — Be advised, bookworms. The Bridgeton Free Public Library will be temporarily closed from Nov. 14 to Dec. 5 for overdue repairs.
Library Director Gail Robinson explained in no uncertain terms last week some of the structural problems at her building.
“For the last four years, we’ve only had one of three (air conditioning) units operating in the public area of the library,” said Robinson.
There were heaters under people’s desks in the winter and patrons wouldn’t bother taking off their coat. The fans came out during the summer months. Drop-ceiling tiles dating back to 1967 will finally be replaced and ductwork in the ceiling will be reconfigured during the closure.
Funding for fixes to portions of the building, a portion of which dates back to 1816, has been pursued in numerous ways by the library and its supporters. However, these repairs are not coming out of any recently received grant, such as the New Jersey Historic Trust’s $150,000 one from September.
“It’s building improvement to take care of HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) issues,” said city Administrator Dale Goodreau.
He added the project had “been on the burner for awhile” and the contract was recently completed.
The New Jersey Historic Trust grant is designated for preservation efforts and that amount will go toward funding actual work, not designs or inspections.
Next up, Robinson says, are repairs to leaking portions of the roof.
But, all this doesn’t mean every library service is going on hiatus.
Tuesday morning’s “Story Time” program held at 10 a.m. will now be hosted at the Canvas Bag Gallery, located at 46 E. Commerce St. The Friends of the Bridgeton Library will also be holding an “Afternoon of Jazz” on Nov. 20 at the Ashley-McCormick Center.
Also, portions of the library will be open for the city’s Holiday House Tour on Saturday, Dec. 3.
Patrons may return items at the library’s book-drop, located at the front of the building, during the renovation period. No fines will be imposed during the renovation process and fax service will not be available.
For more information during the project, patrons may call (856) 451-2620 or by email at email@example.com.