Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 5
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
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Library Board Votes for “One Card” and Makes Plans for the Future

Ellen Gilbert

The Princeton Public Library (PPL) Board of Trustees voted unanimously to accept the Princeton Heartland Payment System’s “one card” plan for Princeton at a meeting on Thursday. A similar plan to support a partnership between Heartland and the Princeton Education Foundation had been unanimously passed earlier in the week at the Tuesday meeting of the Princeton Regional School Board of Education.

Heartland Payment Systems, which provides retailers with the tools for processing credit card transactions, had proposed a pilot program to the Library Board last September. At that time, the Board, which includes the mayors of both Princeton municipalities, three members from the Borough, three members from the Township, and the school Superintendent or her designee, watched a video presentation introduced by Heartland chairman and CEO, Bob Carr. The video described Heartland’s introduction of a new campus card for Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. The card, which features cutting edge contact-less technology, allows users to designate a charity of their choice to benefit through Heartland’s “Give Something Back” program, whenever it is used to make a purchase at participating merchants.

With the school system now in the picture, the plan is to give Princeton Regional School students a card that will serve as both an ID and a library card. The same card will be issued to library patrons. The 1.5 percent “give-back” on every purchase made with the card will be divided between the Library and the schools, with each receiving 0.25 percent, no matter who issued the card. The cardholder may choose to get the remaining 1 percent back in cash, or give it to an organization of their choice.

Citing unanswered questions and apparent changes since the initial presentation of the plan, the PPL Board had opted to postpone voting on the it in its regular Tuesday meeting. The proposed plan for the Library initially did not include the option of obtaining a card through the school system. At that meeting Board members had also expressed concern about the impact of school-issued cards on the library budget, and the difficulty of keeping track of where the “give back” money would go. After the Thursday morning meeting with Heartland CEO Carr, however, Library Board President Katherine McGavern said that the Board felt confident enough to go ahead with a plan. The Library will begin by giving “1001” patrons a card during Library Week, which begins on April 19. “We’ll see how it goes,” Ms. McGavern said. No additional card disbursement dates have been set.

The pre-paid or debit card, which is not a credit card, also has the potential to be used in the town’s parking meters. Heartland is proposing to supply the new cards and card readers at no cost to the library. Card readers will cost participating merchants around $210.

Headquartered in Princeton, Heartland is the world’s sixth largest payment processor. It is traded on the New York Stock Exchange and serves 150,000 restaurants, hotels, and retailers, as well as 300 colleges throughout the U.S. Heartland’s processing rate of 1.5 percent is less than the rates charged by Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.

Other Agenda Items

The Library Board welcomed a new member, Borough resident Alison Lahnston, a development officer at the Peddie School with a long standing interest in libraries and the PPL in particular; her mother was a founding member of the Friends of the Library.

Library Director Leslie Burger announced that an “I support public libraries” campaign has begun in response to threatened changes in the equation used to determine funding for municipal public libraries in New Jersey. She described the peculiar situation that has arisen in communities with waterfront property, as a result of the “one-third of every million” on tax dollars formula that has been used to fund libraries to date. Since ratables in these communities with highly desirable real estate have risen, the municipalities have raised more money than their libraries can use. PPL’s participation in the “support public library campaign” includes making postcards available to customers at the Circulation Desk, to send to state officials protesting any consequent cuts that would impact all New Jersey libraries.

De-caféd, for Now

Ms. Burger reported that the request for proposals (RFP) from prospective café occupants had been disappointing (only two were received). The RFP did not reflect displeasure with the current occupant, Chez Alice, but was legally mandated. An informal survey indicated that potential respondents had been occupied with the Holiday season, so a new RFP will be issued soon. Ms. Burger noted the presence of “Food for America,” an organization that donates 10 percent of its catering revenue, and at least one local business.

Looking Ahead

Reviewing the library staff’s benefit package, seeking a resolution to the subsidized parking issue, and clarifying relationships among the Friends, Foundation and Trustees to each other and to donors, were among the Board’s stated goals for 2008 in a memo circulated by Library Board President Katherine McGavern. One of the highlights of the coming year is likely to be developing plans for the Library’s one-hundredth birthday celebration in 2009. Ms. Burger indicated that she would like this to be a “Board-driven” effort.

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