Last week, the New Jersey Assembly approved and sent to the Senate A222, the New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act. The bill authorizes the issuance of $125 million in state bonds to provide construction grants enabling New Jersey libraries to construct, expand and equip its libraries. Once approved by the Senate, the bond referendum will be on the November ballot enabling New Jersey residents to voice their own opinions on the importance and vitality of libraries.

Here in Monmouth County, there is no question about the importance of the system that provides facilities at its headquarters in Manalapan, together with 13 branches and 14 member libraries; the fact it received more than a million and a quarter visitors last year, coupled with its nearly two million volumes available for use is indicative of how important this heart of the community is to the public. The fact the library sponsored nearly 7,000 programs last year, and provided the venue for an additional close to 1,000 programs for various organizations throughout the County highlights that indeed, the Monmouth County Library is the corner store for all those seeking education, culture, entertainment, recreation, or simply a better quality of life.

The Library Commission recognizes that to continue to provide the high standard and variety of service it offers at the quality it maintains, library construction from the 1980s is no long efficient or effective in bringing 21st century technology to an ever hungry citizenry.

Towards this end, the Library Commission has already planned improvements to its headquarters library that include advanced electronic capabilities and furnishings that are commensurate with the high tech electronics that truly keep the library available in the palm of the hand of the user. The Commission is aware of the need to provide an attractive, comfortable, and inviting environment which not only encourages continued high usage, but also encourages higher usage by all age groups from infants and toddlers to senior citizens.

Approval of the state bond issue in November could not come at a better time for Monmouth County. If approved, the cost to the Monmouth County tax payer of the additional infusion of interior design and furniture so necessary in continuing library usage as the community center it is, can be offset by state-wide funding and enable the library to complete the much needed improvements within a shorter period.

The Assembly bill, and its companion in the Senate takes note that public libraries have helped “bridge the digital divide” by providing patrons with computer and internet access while continuing to provide a wide range of critical services that range from college-preparation and job seeking to career-assistance and securing government assistance. Bill sponsors, including our own legislators, point out that passage of the referendum will also lead to the creation of numerous construction and trade jobs, ensuring the economic well-being of New Jersey.
A yes on a bonding referendum in November will enable the library to move forward more quickly and at less expense for Monmouth County taxpayers in upgrading the appearance of its 1988 Manalapan Library interior and bring it to the 21st century ambiance that is commensurate with the high standard of service and accommodation we provide.
I would urge your newspaper to follow approval of the Bill as it goes through the Senate and endorse it as a necessary and sound referendum when it appears on the November ballot. A yes vote will mean the additional state funding will enable the Monmouth County Library, the largest public library system in the state, as well as other libraries, to have the funds to continue to deliver the technology, adequate and comfortable surroundings and background environment that are equal to the standard of excellence of our services.

Renee B. Swartz
Chair, Monmouth County Library Commission

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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...