Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 8
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
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Undaunted by Thefts, Public Library Celebrates 100 Years of Service

Ellen Gilbert

Princeton Borough police have apprehended two people in the alleged theft of 170 books, valued at approximately $3,500, from the Princeton Public Library. Charges have been pressed in both instances, and Director Leslie Burger congratulated the “quick thinking” of staff members Andre Levie and Darren Alizio in connection with the arrests.

With the case going to litigation, Ms. Burger said she could not reveal the names of the alleged thieves. She also declined to describe their M.O. — which continued “over the course of several months during the summer and fall” — for fear that others might imitate the crime. The materials taken appeared to be random, and did not represent any particular theme or subject.

“We will replace most of the material,” said Ms. Burger. “The police have been alerted and staff has been vigilant about observing and reporting suspicious activity.”

While there is ordinarily a very small amount of theft in the library, the latest incident was “the biggest we’ve had,” Mr. Burger noted. The last “big spate” of thefts occurred with the disappearance of a number of DVDs “six or seven years ago, before they routinely received security tags”

On a happier note, Ms. Burger reported that as part of its 100th anniversary celebration, the library is looking forward to greeting its millionth visitor “close to the end of December.” With the current door count at 837,000 visitors, she believes this goal, which will be celebrated with door prizes and more, is “very doable.”

She reported that the library is purchasing a new door-counter system which will provide more accurate counts and allow the library to see traffic flow patterns, enabling them “to be more precise in targeting our staffing.” Ms. Burger noted that the current door counter at the front door is often unplugged by people who want to use the outlet to charge laptops. The new system will be battery operated and has a software component that will reduce the need for manual calculations.

The year-long celebration will culminate with a gala benefit on Friday evening, October 9, and a “big community party both inside and outside” on October 10. “Our gala committee is busy at work coming up with plans for a memorable event to mark the occasion,” Ms. Burger reported.

The year’s kickoff event, a recent Sunday afternoon Peter Yarrow concert, drew 550 paying attendees, with 40 additional people in attendance through free passes distributed by the library, she reported. Combined ticket and book sales yielded more than $5,600, which will be used to underwrite Youth Services Department programs.

The 100th day of the year, April 10th, will also provide an opportunity for celebration. “We will be taking note of all things 100, along with a special birthday-themed puppet show by Puppets Pizzazz,” said Ms. Burger. Those attending the April 10th event will be asked to bring a can of soup, with the goal of collecting 100 cans to donate to the Trenton Soup Kitchen.

Recent snowfall took its toll on the library, which was closed for two days. Ms. Burger reported that “we are busy digging out, literally and figuratively. When the library is closed, there is a backlog of returns, at the library and in our books drops, and we must process them as well as address the pent up demand for service. We’ve backdated the due date on materials so our customers will not be charged late fees for items they were unable to return due to the library’s closing.”

“Our snow removal contractor has done a great job for us during the last two storms,” she noted, adding, however, that “the bad news is that we are likely to exceed our snow removal budget this year.”

At their most recent meeting, the library’s Board of Trustees approved the continuation of President Katherine McGavern, Vice President Robert Ginsberg, and Treasurer Ira Fuchs in their respective roles during the coming year.

Ms. Burger also announced that she was recently appointed to represent the Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative on the Library Network Review Board.

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