Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 17
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
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Library Supporters Urged to Attend May 6 Rally

Ellen Gilbert

Princeton Public Library (PPL) Director Leslie Burger encourages library supporters to participate in a rally in Trenton that has been scheduled for Thursday, May 6, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to protest proposed budget cuts in state funding to libraries. Legislative visits will follow the rally.

In a message to Library Friends and others, Ms. Burger mentioned Governor Christie’s proposed 74 percent reduction in state funding for library services. “For us at PPL, this will result in loss of services valued at approximately $80,000, including a 50 percent reduction in our per capita state aid payment; loss of digital resources like EBSCO Master File and Academic Premier, RefUSA; loss of support for summer reading; loss of funding for the backup service we provide for Q&ANJ reference; and loss of delivery for interlibrary loans.”

Online registration for the May 6 rally is available at

At last week’s Board meeting, Ms. Burger described recent meetings with various focus groups as “fun” and “informative.” The discussions are being held to help PPL prepare a strategic plan update. Focus groups have included library users ranging from parents of young children to groups of senior citizens. Ms. Burger reported that “the Elm Court group, in particular, had a lot of good suggestions.”

Future ventures for the library may include picking up some of the slack resulting from state budget cuts to New Jersey school districts, said Board President Katherine McGavern. Reporting on a recent meeting with District Superintendent Judy Wilson. she said that “We need to get ready for summer because the district’s literacy programs are probably going to be cut.”

Although it is not yet completely fine-tuned, new door-counter software has enabled the library to more accurately compute the number of its visitors, and a statistical report circulated by Ms. Burger indicated that “more people come in through the library’s front door every single day.”

Examining statistics from comparable New Jersey and Connecticut libraries, Ms. Burger described Princeton’s numbers as “staggering.” In those instances where other communities’ numbers appeared higher, she noted that counting processes differ from one system to another. While another library may count a five-disc CD as five units being borrowed, Princeton recognizes it as a single transaction. She also pointed out that unlike many other municipal libraries, the Princeton Public Library does not receive an automatic allocation, and must raise a significant amount of its own money — not an easy proposition in a “difficult economy.”

Recognition of the library’s “Lemons to Lemonade” story of how the Friends of the Library turned a money-losing space (the old Library Store) into a revenue-generating space (the used book sale) includes a $2,500 award from the American Library Association.

“It’s not that we think we’re doing a bad job, but there’s always room for improvement,” said Ms. Burger reporting on a current effort to “revitalize customer service.” A highlight among new services being offered is parking validation for any library card-holder who uses the library, regardless of whether or not they reside in the Borough or Township. Updated phone greetings, attention to customer comment cards, and encouraging staff to “be respectful and kind” are included in a recently-issued guide for improved service. Staff have also been alerted to the fact that “mystery shoppers” will visit from time to time to evaluate service.

Ms. McGavern pointed to recent library efforts to help residents complete census forms and prepare tax returns as evidence of its role as the “community’s living room.” She echoed Ms. Burger’s report on focus groups by observing that “we read the needs of the community and respond.”

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