The New Jersey Library Association is very distressed by the recent and sudden closure of the Orange Public Library. We strongly believe that the residents of Orange, a major urban center, must have access to library services in their community. Residents of Orange pay taxes for library service. Those residents deserve a plan that details the short term provision of library service and the long term restoration of library service within the municipality. We urge the library board and municipality to work together quickly to address how library services will be delivered while the library building is closed and when local library services will be restored. We are aware that residents can currently use the ReBL program (Reciprocal Borrowing Libraries), which will give them the ability to borrow library materials from other public libraries outside of the City of Orange. Programs such as ReBL are shared services programs and are not intended to replace local library services. Also, many residents do not have the ability to travel to these libraries because of limited transportation options and, therefore, will have no access to library services such as job assistance on the Internet. Reciprocal programs do not replace local library service.
Adopted by the New Jersey Library Association Executive Board, May 21, 2013
The New Jersey Library Association opposes the actions of Mayor Tony Mack of Trenton to turn the operations of branch library facilities of the Trenton Free Public Library to an organization outside the authority of the Board of Trustees of the Trenton Free Public Library.
Legally, the materials, computers and equipment currently housed in the Trenton Library branches are the responsibility of the board of trustees. Although the mayor is a member of this same board of library trustees he has never notified his fellow board members of his plans for these facilities. Everything within those buildings legally belongs to the board of trustees of the library.
This unprecedented attempt to bypass the current legal structure for library services will divert much needed library resources to volunteer-run community centers that will lack both the ability to maintain or update those resources and the expertise with which to serve the public’s information needs.
Who will oversee the operations of these library facilities?
Under New Jersey law, only a certified librarian is authorized to oversee the direction of a library. A librarian’s position requires a master’s degree, and, when serving a city as large as Trenton, should have had extensive library management experience. In addition, trained library staff should be available to assist residents. Today’s library goes well beyond books- it is computer training, electronic resources and programming. This requires the expertise of trained staff.
What is the role of volunteers?
The mayor’s proposal states that “volunteers” will run the library. How have the volunteers been trained? Have they undergone the proper background checks to work with the children and families of Trenton?
In May 2011 the New Jersey Library Association issued a policy statement on the use of volunteers in Public Libraries. It states “Public libraries provide essential services to the community; the use of volunteers enables libraries to maintain and even enhance these services. It is imperative, however, that all key functions of the public library be staffed by people with the appropriate level of professional or paraprofessional education and training. There is a place for volunteers in areas of library operations, but no volunteer should ever be put in charge of a library function that involves fiscal, confidentiality, or liability issues. Volunteers should not be regarded as a solution to budgetary deficits.”
We believe that the duties of any volunteers who will be in these facilities should be evaluated based on this statement.
Where is the funding coming from?
The budget of the Trenton Free Public Library has been reduced drastically during the past two years. It has been these budget reductions which have caused the closing of the branch libraries. Has additional funding been found and if so, why hasn’t it been given to the library board of trustees to restore hours?
The New Jersey Library Association supports efforts to restore library hours in any community. During this recent recession funding for public libraries on both the local and state levels have suffered tremendously. We deplore the closing of library branches in the cities like Trenton, Newark, and Jersey City. These are places where the community needs library services the most.
The Trenton Free Public Library is one of the oldest libraries in New Jersey. It has a long history of providing library services to its residents. Under the laws of New Jersey, the library board of trustees has the legal responsibility over the operations of the library in a municipality.
Library facilities must be open and accessible to residents of Trenton. This proposal, however, fails to provide the residents of Trenton any assurance that they will receive the type of library service they need. A room full of books does not make a library.
The New Jersey Library Association urges the mayor to withdraw this proposal. We support a solution where concerned library board members, community leaders and volunteers join their efforts in a solution which would provide the best public library services to the residents of Trenton. We stand ready to assist in these efforts
Issued by the New Jersey Library Association April 30, 2012
THE STATE PER CAPITA AID PROGRAM IS UNDERFUNDED BY 62%, THEREFORE WE ARE SEEKING FULL FUNDING OF $9.7 MILLION PER N.J.S.A. 18A:74-3.
The Per Capita State Aid Program is direct aid to every local library. Funding of $9.7 million would restore the program to full funding as specified in N.J.S.A. 18A:74-3, which would provide $1.11 per person of state funding for library service in New Jersey. The current funding is $3,676,000, or approximately $0.42 per person. To fulfill the commitment to the state per capita aid program we seek an additional $5.9 million.
State aid to school districts was over $10 billion in FY2012, which included an increase of $804 million in the last year. As a major educational component in the community, public libraries serve the entire community, including serving as a key resource for homeschoolers, many charter schools, senior citizens and the unemployed.