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Vol. LXI, No. 43
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
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Heartland and Public Library Continue Talks About New Card

Linda Arntzenius

At the October 18 meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Princeton Public Library, the discussion focused on the recent proposal by Heartland Payment Systems to create a new library card with the potential for use as a pre-paid cash card that would benefit library funding through the company’s “Give Something Back” program.

Headquartered in Princeton, Heartland provides retailers with the tools for processing credit card transactions and is the world’s sixth largest payment processor.

Last week’s discussion followed a September presentation by company Chairman and CEO Bob Carr. A Princeton resident since 1992, Mr. Carr sits on the board of Princeton Day School, which all three of his children attended, and on the board of the Historical Society of Princeton. The pilot program he is proposing features cutting-edge technology that would allow cardholders to use the pre-paid cash card for purchases in addition to borrowing books from the library.

While the card could be used solely as a library card, it could also be used to pay for fines, photocopying, and DVD rentals as well as for parking at the Spring Street garage. Users could make purchases in vending machines as well as in local coffee shops and retail stores.

The library could potentially benefit each time the pre-paid card, which is not a credit card, is used. The company, which would supply the new cards and card readers at no cost to the library, is banking on there being a sufficient number of users to make it profitable for the library and for the company.

Merchants will pay a percentage of each transaction to Heartland at a lower rate than is charged by other credit card company processors. Heartland’s rate of 1.5 percent is less than the rates charged by credit card companies (1.85 percent for Visa/Mastercard, 2.8 percent for American Express).

Over 70 local merchants already use Heartland Systems technology for their credit card processing. Between 30 and 40, have expressed interest in the new program which would designate the library as the default beneficiary. Cardholders would have the option of supporting other local groups such as SAVE and the Historical Society of Princeton.

Last week, members of the board, which includes the mayors of both Princeton municipalities, raised concerns about how the card would work. Would benefits to the library be reduced if cardholders chose other local non-profits to benefit rather than the library? Would donations to the library made via the card result in a reduction in the amount of support the library received via the Friends of the Library? Would people say to themselves: “I already gave at the garage.”

It was suggested that should the program go ahead, there should be careful monitoring of the possible effect on other library donations.

“For Heartland Systems this is a nice opportunity to test a concept in a real world environment. An interesting possibility for the library is that the card could be used for parking validation or to pay for parking,” said Ms. Burger, prompting Board Treasurer Ira Fuchs to ask Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman about the likelihood of the Borough’s parking meters being able to utilize the new technology. Ms. Trotman said that it was too early to say.

Board member Grayson Barber described the “zing” of the card’s new technology, which she felt would be great for the library. Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand commented that there didn’t seem to be a downside to the program. Board President Katherine McGavern also liked the idea of the cutting edge technology as long as there were no costs to the library.

After discussion, the board gave Library Director Leslie Burger the go ahead for continued talks with Heartland.

Following a meeting with Mr. Carr on Monday, October 22, she said: “We are working out the details.” At the same time, she announced that the library would be issuing an RFP (a Request for Proposal) to find out whether there where any other companies offering a service similar to Heartland’s.

Before Monday’s meeting with Ms. Burger, Mr. Carr said that his company was looking to create upwards of 20,000 cards. “Were the library to not want to do this, we would still go ahead with a Princeton Community Card,” he said. After meeting with Ms. Burger, Mr. Carr expressed guarded optimism. “We are continuing to move forward and will meet on a regular basis.”

For more on the Give Something Back program, visit: The next meeting of the board of trustees will take place on Tuesday, November 20, at 5:30 p.m. in the library’s 2nd floor conference room.

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