During times of economic crisis, it’s natural to look for ways to cut spending. But recent suggestions that the city of Hoboken cut funding for our library will do far more harm to our community than good.
When the economy is bad, library use soars. Children, especially those whose parents can’t afford to buy books, find a haven for reading. They go to the library, not only for reading materials but also for a cozy place to enjoy them. They also go to find librarians ready to help them choose books and learn, assisting them with homework and computer use.
Senior citizens and others on reduced budgets (and who isn’t feeling the pinch right now?) depend on the library’s resources – books, CDs, DVDs, computer use and even museum memberships. Job hunters find the library’s reference services and free Internet access invaluable.
Let’s look at the numbers. In 2008, the library’s circulation peaked at 151,405 books, CDs and DVDs compared to 132,295 in 2007. Attendance in 2008 reached 156,971. Our library, through its membership in the Bergen County Cooperative Library System (BCCLS), offers access to the collections of 75 other libraries. That means literally millions of titles, including children’s books, works in numerous languages and large print editions. And it means DVDs that people might not be able to afford to rent from Blockbuster or Netflix, plus CDs, newspapers and magazines.
It’s about more than just books
The library offers far more than things to borrow. It provides vital services. In 2008, it held 188 children’s programs, 23 young adult programs, and 22 adult programs, along with class visits for students and computer tutorials for adults. Both the children’s and young adult departments had active summer reading clubs, important in building lifelong literacy skills. In total, 3,596 children and teens, and 190 adults attended library programs last year.
During the 2008 fiscal year, 1,306 children, 2,048 young adults, and 22,828 adults used the Hoboken library’s computers – to learn, to communicate, and, in some cases, to look for work.
On February 19th, the Hoboken library participated in a statewide initiative to count services. On that day alone, over 300 people visited our library. Patrons borrowed 385 books and 334 DVDs, 31 people came to read newspapers, and the reference staff assisted in answering 54 questions. Fifteen people came to create their resumes, 28 completed online job applications, and 13 people applied for unemployment online.
The people who would suffer the most from cutting back library services are those who are already hurting the most from the downturn. Regardless of our personal circumstances, we’d all be hurt by lost library services, because we’re a community (among other things, the library houses a large historical collection), because we’d lose a quiet space to read, learn and work, and because we’d be shutting off avenues of literacy and possibility for our future leaders.
Hoboken’s library was established in 1894 and remained open even during the Great Depression.
What kind of legacy will our generation leave our children?
The Friends of the Hoboken Library request that you take a moment to contact the mayor and your councilperson, asking them to fully fund the library. Just last fall, Hoboken’s membership in the BCCLS system was threatened by insufficient funding and library hours were reduced; they were recently reinstated, partly in response to public demand. But proposals to cut funding seem to keep bubbling up.
One recent concern: the League of Municipalities has adopted a resolution calling for a change in New Jersey law that would slash the minimum funding for municipal public libraries. This would be devastating to all of New Jersey’s libraries and would force many to close. The League’s resolution has not yet become a proposed bill in legislature. The Trustees of the Hoboken Public Library voted against the League’s resolution.
We’ll keep you updated in this column and you can also find updates on the New Jersey Library Association’s website, http://www.njla.org/. Meanwhile, it’s critical that you let your representatives know the library matters to you. It makes a difference!
Thank you for investing in Hoboken’s present and future!
This column is brought to you by The Friends of the Hoboken Public Library, a non-profit group of volunteers dedicated to assisting the Library. For more information about the Friends and the activities we sponsor and to join the group, visit our website at www.hobokenfol.org. Membership brochures are also available at the Library.