Cuts made as demands on library services have increased

FREEHOLD, NJ – The Monmouth County Library System will ask the Board of Chosen Freeholders to approve a 2011 library budget that contains an overall decrease in the dedicated tax paid by its 27 member towns. Library officials are scheduled to discuss the library spending plan at a public meeting with the freeholders tomorrow at 9 a.m. in the Hall of Records.

The dedicated tax to support the budget, which is paid for by member towns based on their individual ratable base, would be $12,103,944, down $46,006. “The library tax in our member towns will remain flat,” said Kenneth Sheinbaum, library director. “No town should see an increase.”

This good news about the library’s 2011 budget comes at a time when the Monmouth County Library System is experiencing tremendous growth in circulation a well as in the numbers of programs, patrons and lending materials, including books, DVDs, CDs and other items. The Monmouth County Library System, with 11 branches and 27 member towns, is the largest circulating library in the state.

“During hard economic times, a greater burden is placed on government services and the Library System is no exception,” said Freeholder Lillian G. Burry, liaison to the Library Commission. “We have had increases across the board, from the  number of new patrons to the numbers of people attending our programs. The libraries are providing more services at a reduced cost.”

2010 highlights from 11 branches include:

  • Circulation is up 3 percent
  • Accession of new library materials, up 13 percent
  • New patrons increased to 218,783, up 15,176
  • Program attendance at Manalapan Headquarters was 57,000, up 12 percent
  • Circulation of children’s world language books, up 65 percent
  • Circulation of children’s instructional DVDs, up 31 percent
  • Attendance at children’s programs system-wide 78,580, up 7.5 percent

Among the services the library makes available at Manalapan Headquarters and the Eastern Branch is making volunteers available to help people fill out and file their income tax returns.

The library also helps people find jobs online and write their resumes. People who do not have a computer often come to the libraries where there are a number of computers for public use and access to the internet. Those with home computers benefit from numerous computer classes at the library.

“The library has seen an extraordinary increase in the number of patrons using the facilities,” Burry said. “On any given day, 1,000 patrons walk through the doors at each of the two largest branches in Manalapan and Shrewsbury.”

The proposed 2011 library budget is $19,479,000, up $3,479,000. The increase reflects a shift in how library support services are allocated – these are costs that had been part of the county’s budget in prior years and are now in the library’s budget. The Library System is now fully self-supporting.

“The library budget has remained stable these past few years despite the fact that the West Long Branch and Atlantic Highlands libraries have become branch libraries,” Burry said. “The Library System continues to meet the growing challenges of residents in our member towns.”

Compared with some other county library systems in New Jersey, the Monmouth County Library System operates at half the expense, according to the New Jersey Public Library Statistics. The 2009 per capita library expenditures in Monmouth County was $32.64, well below the state average for library spending in each of the 21 counties.

Tomorrow’s meeting is the first of several public budget session the freeholders plan to hold. Evening public information sessions on the budget have also been scheduled. The first will be from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 22 at the Monmouth County Library Headquarters in Manalapan, and the second will be from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 3 at the Eastern Branch Library in Shrewsbury. These sessions will include an overview of the county budget for 2011.

The 2011 county budget is scheduled to be introduced on Thursday, Feb. 24 at the Board of Chosen Freeholders’ meeting. There will be a formal public hearing prior to the scheduled budget adoption on Thursday, March 24.

The public is invited to attend all budget sessions. Public comment will be taken at the evening sessions and at the formal public hearing.