CLARK – The impact of Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed cuts to school and municipal aid awards has gotten the headlines this week, but libraries will also be feeling the pinch under his budget plan.
The governor’s budget proposal cuts state library funding by 74 percent – $10.4 million. Funding for the Talking Book and Braille Center would be eliminated, forcing the service to shut down.
Approximately 250 of the state’s public libraries currently receive their internet access through New Jersey’s State Library; once the money runs out, they’ll have to make other arrangements lose the service.
More than 100 libraries would lose email service and website hosting that they had obtained through the State Library. According to Library Director Patricia Anderson, the Clark Public Library receives its internet access directly from Verizon, but would have to obtain new email and web hosting at a cost of several hundred dollars per year.
The elimination of state funding for the JerseyConnect program also means the loss of $4.5 million in federal funding and a possible $7.5 million federal grant.
According to State Librarian Norma Blake, New Jersey’s inter-library loan program would be shut down at the end of June once the current funding runs out. The program lets library card holders borrow books and other materials from libraries around the state and have them shipped to their home library at no cost to them.
Anderson said that the Clark library processed over 4,000 inter-library loans last year. “Patrons love the service and have come to depend upon it,” she said.
“The most devastating effects are the loss of statewide databases that the State Library pays for and we access,” Anderson said.
“We use them to help local business people create job lists for sales prospecting and mailings. They are also used to help patrons research companies for career prospects and job interviews. We use the Ebsco databases to help people research everything from consumer health questions to educational assistance. Students access these databases as well, from home in many cases,” she said. “This is all free with a Clark library card, but if the Governor’s budget prevails we will all lose access to these important services.”
Local libraries have also been able to take advantage of state-funded workshops for librarians, but will have to find the money in their own budgets to meet state-mandated continuing education requirements.
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