Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 4
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
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Library Board Passes Provisional Budget, Reviews Year’s Stats

Ellen Gilbert

The Princeton Public Library Board of Trustees heard an audit report for 2007, circulated 2008 usage statistics, and approved a temporary budget for 2009 at its monthly meeting last week.

Katherine McGavern, Robert Ginsberg, and Ira Fuchs were reelected to their positions as President, Vice-President and Treasurer, and new Township Mayor Bernie Miller was welcomed. Mr. Miller is no stranger to library administration, having previously served on the Friends Council as treasurer.

In his auditor’s report, Robert J. Higgins of Civale, Silvestri, Alfieri, Martin & Higgins, commended the library for having addressed concerns cited in previous reports regarding descriptions of the library’s fixed assets, its ability to prepare financial statements, and in-house training of accounting staff. Bookkeeping regarding “interfund” activities remains a problem according to this year’s report.

A temporary appropriation of $1,228,300 was made in anticipation of approval of a permanent 2009 budget later in the year. It was noted that although the library’s fiscal year runs from January through December, approval of a permanent budget waits for Borough and Township budget-approvals, while they, in turn, are waiting for announcements regarding state aid and tax revenues.

Twenty-Seven Dresses, Juno, and No Country for Old Men were the library’s three most-borrowed DVDs in 2008, according to Director Leslie Burger. Non-fiction favorites were Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food and David Sedaris’s Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. The most popular adult fiction titles were Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth, Sophie Kinsella’s Remember Me, and Sue Miller’s The Senator’s Wife.

Usage statistics for 2008 revealed that the library experienced what Ms. Burger described as “modest” (three percent) increase in use, with 849,014 people reported in the year’s “door count.” Cardholders, totaling 32,842, were up one percent. Interlibrary loans experienced a 68 percent increase with 1,221 books requested in 2008 over 727 in 2007, while downloads of audio books decreased 15 percent from 3,202 in 2007 to 2,725 in 2008. A relatively unknown service of the library, proctoring exams, went up 88 percent from 41 in 2007 to 77 in 2008. Ms. Burger that people have become much more attentive to returning books on time since the economic downturn began. Mr. Fuchs wondered whether this ostensibly positive trend would result in a loss of revenue.

The Board endorsed a New Jersey Library Association (NJLA) statement opposing a League of Municipalities resolution to “lower the minimum funding level for municipal public libraries from one-third of a million dollars in equalized valuation to one-sixth of a million dollars.” NJLA described such a cut as having “a devastating effect on all libraries in the state,” with some libraries seeing “their funding level subjected to a 50 percent decrease.”

On a brighter note, Ms. Burger circulated an American Library Association report on “Libraries’ Role in Changing America,” submitted in December to then-President-Elect Obama and his transition team, noting Mr. Obama’s description of libraries as “sanctuaries of learning” that represent “a window to a larger world.” Ms. Burger said that Mr. Obama, who spoke at the 2005 American Library Association conference, is expected to be a library-friendly president.

The next meeting of the Library Board of Trustees will be Tuesday, February 17, at 5:30 p.m. in the conference room on the second floor of the library.

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