Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 13
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
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Library Board Reviews Goals and Looks Toward the Future

Ellen Gilbert

The news at last week’s Princeton Public Library Board meeting was mostly good. Board President Katherine McGavern reported that the board’s recently-stated goals of reviewing library employees’ benefits package, enhancing their collaboration with the Friends of the Library, and plans for the Library’s 2009 centennial celebration, are all underway.

Determining parking costs for library patrons, she said, is still a “work in progress,” and board member Grayson Barber wondered whether the resolution of this time-consuming quandary should not be left up to Library Director Leslie Burger, who, she said, “is caught in the crossfire between the Borough and the Township.” Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman pointed out that the issue is indeed between the Borough and Township, and the Board agreed to change the wording of their original charge from “finding a resolution” to the parking situation to “advocating for” one.

Ms. Burger noted that the library is currently operating on a temporary three-month budget which it will need to renew at next month’s board meeting, if the Borough and Township don’t come up with their own budgets before then. Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand and Ms. Trotman reported that they were waiting for the state budget to be announced before preparing their own respective budgets, since there was considerable uncertainty about how much the municipalities would be getting. What is already certain, however, said Ms. Burger, is that the state’s 2009 budget marks “the first time there will be a cut to libraries,” representing a loss of about $3,500 (10 per cent of the usual $35,000 allocation) for the PPL.

Although the library and Heartland Payment Systems had agreed not to go ahead with the library’s sponsorship of an ID/debit/money-raising card after the last Board meeting, Ms. Burger noted that if the one-card plan, which now appears to be under the aegis of the Princeton Education Foundation, is “wildly successful, the door is still open for library participation.” In the meantime, there will not be a request for other proposals, as suggested at the last meeting. A recent article from USA Today detailing some of the problems with existing debit-card arrangements at various colleges was circulated.

Ms. Burger reported on what may be an incipient “slow book movement” discussed at a conference she recently attended. Board members expressed interest in adopting such a program, which would encourage “a step back from sound bytes” in a world inundated with information.

News of improved technology at the library included Ms. Burger’s announcement that, as of June, patrons would be able to download digital books onto IPods.

An unexpected boon resulting from the library’s sale of red tote bags with the library logo, Ms. Burger said, has been the submission of photos of the bags taken by library patrons during their travels to faraway places, like Yeats’s grave in Dublin. It was agreed that this practice, which might result in an intriguing exhibit, should be encouraged.

Library Business Manager Linda Simon was present at the meeting to talk about her 18 years of work at the library, and to receive kudos from various board members. Ms. McGavern described Ms. Simon’s work as “invaluable to the financial well-being of this organization,” while Ms. Burger called her “the financial brains behind this operation” and “a delight to work with.” Others lauded her “steady grace under pressure,” and willingness to embrace new technology, as evidenced by the fact that she is dealing with the third accounting system to be implemented at the library in the last 9 years.

Ms. Simon noted that the library budget had grown from $980,000 when she started in 1989, to $4 million today. Fines during her first year generated $1,000 a month in income; today the library takes in $10,000 a month in fines. “We managed things pretty okay,” Ms. Simon modestly commented when reminded of the $18 million construction budget she oversaw for the creation of the new library building. “I enjoy what I do,” she commented. “I work with a great group of people.”

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