Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 9
 
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

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PRS Anticipates Flat Budget Scenario

Ellen Gilbert

With a “phenomenal increase in use,” Princeton Public Library (PPL) Director Leslie Burger’s suggestion that “We probably play an even more important role in the community when the economy is tough” is well-taken. With its “tons of business-related resources,” author appearances, speaker series, book clubs, film screenings, and Sunday afternoon family programs, the library is playing many roles to many people of all ages in these financially troubled times.

A first-ever Small Business Fair on April 4, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., will provide an opportunity for current and prospective business owners to speak with representatives from government agencies, banks, and law firms. It will also offer attendees a chance to learn about the specialized resources and staff expertise available both at the library and to off-site users, who can simply type in their PPL card number to access online databases and send queries to librarians.

The April 4 event will also give participants a chance to meet with some of the 27 mostly retired executives and small business owners who are members of the Princeton chapter of SCORE (“Counselors to America’s Small Business”), an ongoing presence in library programming. Four days each week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m., and Wednesdays and Fridays at 9:30 a.m., men and women from Princeton SCORE are available, by appointment, for counseling sessions with individuals who are considering starting a new business or are simply in need of business advice. All counseling is free and confidential.

SCORE will also be sponsoring several special programs in the coming weeks, including talks on SBA (Small Business Administration) Financing, on April 14; Advertising for Small Business, on April 28; How to Hire, Motivate, and Retain Great Employees, on June 18; and QuickBooks to Help Your Business Grow,” on June 25. Each program is free and begins at 6:45 p.m.

The library’s “Technology Programs on the Economy,” include an upcoming presentation about online resources for job seekers interested in finding information on careers, employers, job postings, sites offering assistance writing a resume or cover letter, career advice, salary information, and resources for entrepreneurs on April 7 at 7 p.m., and again on May 13 and 27 at 1 p.m. In addition to attending any or all of these programs, Ms. Burger noted, library users are always welcome to go to the second-floor reference desk where they can set up a one-on-one appointment with a reference librarian.

With many businesses asking for online filing of applications, the simple presence of high-speed computers at the library can be a boon to job seekers, along with the availability of scanners for legal documents and photocopiers, as more people choose to “do-it-yourself.” Notary services and test proctoring are also available.

Reassuring Presence

In addition to directly addressing the need for business resources, the library is, more than ever, a hub for the general community. “There are thousands of small but subtle ways that we help people get through the day,” observed Ms. Burger, wryly noting that there are more public libraries than McDonald’s in the U.S. and adding that Library Journal recently named PPL one of the top 250 public libraries in the country. Another noteworthy statistic is Princeton’s annual per person borrowing rate of 13 books per year, compared with the national per person average of seven books a year.

Describing the library as “mobbed” on weekends, Ms. Burger expressed some concern about being able to keep up with demand in the face of current budget constraints. “Every seat is taken at every computer, and there are long lines of people waiting to check out books, CDs, and DVDs,” she said, noting that she is “personally committed” to trying to preserve the materials budget and maintain current hours and levels of service. Providing free entertainment to budget-wary individuals and families by offering musical programs, movie screenings, poetry readings, and more “is not frivolous,” she observed.

Aside from the fact that browsing through the library’s latest issue of Vanity Fair beats the news stand price of $4.50, the library offers people a place “just to come together,” said Ms. Burger. “It gives them an opportunity to take a few moments out of the day-to-day bombardment of bad news to talk and know they’re not alone. That sort of thing doesn’t happen in a lot of places.” She noted that she is open to suggestions about programs and how the library can better help the community.

A former President of the American Library Association, Ms. Burger is keenly aware of the role libraries play in the big picture. She expressed the hope that money from the federal economic stimulus package would be used to reopen libraries that have suffered as a result of budget cuts. “Reinvesting in libraries is a statement that we believe in our cities,” she observes, citing neighborhoods that have been demonstrably revitalized by the opening, or reopening of libraries.

But Princeton already knows that.

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