Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 44
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
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Helped by Friends, Grants, Library Dealing With Financial Shock Waves

Ellen Gilbert

The recent Princeton Public Library Friends book sale was “the most successful ever,” according to Friends President Pam Wakefield. Speaking at a recent Board of Trustees meeting, she reported that proceeds of the ongoing Friends book sale are also at an all-time high, so it appears that this will be a record-breaking year for library support by the Friends.

Ms. Wakefield also expressed hope that the new look, different merchandise, and additional Sunday hours in the recently reopened Library Store will be a boon to the store’s business.

Money was on Trustee Mark Gordon’s mind as well at last Tuesday’s meeting. Describing New Jersey’s “dire” financial circumstances (there is a shortfall of $400 million in the current budget which ends June 31), Mr. Gordon expressed concern about the State’s ability to support municipalities in the near future. After some discussion, his proposal that all library transactions, including personnel changes, contracts, and purchases, be subject to board approval, was modified to say that the board would “review” these actions. Library Director Leslie Burger had already indicated that she was taking pro-active steps, such as not refilling a currently vacant position, in anticipation of a more stringent environment in the coming months. On the other hand, she noted, the library is “forging ahead with plans to raise endowment funds. People are still giving,” she said, describing a $15,000 gift that was actually made on the first day of the recent financial meltdown. Historically, she pointed out, fund raising revenues do not necessarily reflect the depth of a recession.

The Board approved three grants recently awarded to the Library Foundation, including $20,000 from the Concordia Foundation for the Springboard and Tutoring programs for teens; $5,000 from the Bunberry Foundation for Latino initiatives, and $2,000 from Wendy Benchley for maintenance of the library’s aquarium. In addition, Ms. Burger announced, the library received a $17,000 grant from the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative for its service as a Reference Referral Center for for January through June, 2009. An additional $34,000 has been earmarked by the Cooperative for the library in 2009-2010.

Although it has been providing notary services for some time, the Board approved a policy that formalized the conditions of the service, which is available for $2.50. Ms. Burger reported that seven staff members have been trained as notaries.

In response to Board Chair Katherine McGavern’s question about the possibility of a “Dewey-free library” in Princeton’s future, Ms. Burger said that although grant money is available for libraries that want to transition to systems that reflect natural language searching, it seemed unlikely that a library as heavily used as Princeton’s would make a complete change. She suggested that the library’s children’s collection might lend itself to such a practice, which is currently used by many bookstores. On the other hand, a books-by-mail operation (along the lines of Netflix) is, she thought, a real possibility.

The library will closed on November 11 for staff training. The next Board of Trustees meeting will be on November 18.

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