Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 9
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
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Library Board of Trustees Delays Action on Heartland’s “One Card”

Ellen Gilbert

Heartland Payment System CEO Bob Carr’s presence at last week’s meeting of the Princeton Public Library’s Board of Trustees turned out to be premature.

After meeting with local merchants that morning to present the proposal that would make Princeton a “one card” town, he had announced that the PPL Board would be voting on a measure to finalize approval of the arrangement that evening (indeed, it was an “action” item on the meeting’s agenda). Instead, Mr. Carr was confronted by the news that the preliminary vote to endorse the proposal at the Board’s previous meeting on January 24 was null and void. As Library Director Leslie Burger explained, she had been informed that the session, which had been called as an “emergency meeting” to expedite consideration of the one-card proposal, was not legitimate because “emergency meetings” can only be called for in response to safety issues.

Other setbacks for approval of the one-card arrangement included comments from Board members and a member of the public expressing reservations about the card’s apparent unwelcome mix of intellectual freedom with consumerism. Borough merchant Leo Arons, owner of the Gilded Lion, a fine arts and antiques store on Chambers Street, deplored the use of the same card that “opens doors to new worlds” for “opening Coke machines.” Combining the function of the library card with a debit card, he suggested, equates studying with shopping, trivializing the library’s mission. Mr. Arons also pointed out the potential discrimination against smaller businesses, often minority-owned, unable to afford the equipment necessary for processing the new card, and thus unable to enjoy the benefit of what appears to be the library’s endorsement.

Board member Grayson Barber expressed similar concerns as she displayed the prototype card she obtained at the merchants’ meeting that morning, with the the library’s logo prominently displayed across the top. She said she was discomfited by language used at the meeting, including a description of students as “a captive audience,” and the notion that Heartland will be able to “keep track of all purchases.” She had misgivings, she said, about confidentiality, and how much user information would have to be turned over to Heartland. Ms. Barber was the only Board member to vote against the subsequent directive that Ms. Burger produce a revised request for proposals, to be reviewed by the Board, for a one-card plan.

I.L.L. Fee Reduced

In other business that evening, the Board agreed to adjust the inter-library loan fee, lowering it from $3 to $1, after Ms. Burger described the library’s “obligation to bring information to this curious community” as “a basic service.” An effort will be made to extend Chez Alice’s lease while a new request for proposals is written, and Ms. Burger announced the availability of a circulating DVD of Edward Albee and Emily Mann’s recent discussion at the library. The Board also welcomed new Friends of the Library President Pam Wakefield to the meeting.

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