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Library Looks for 1.2% Allocation Increase for 2013

Maplewood Library Director Sarah Lester requested an increase in the town's allocation to cover capital and technology upgrades, among other improvements.

"It's been a very busy year," Maplewood Library Director Sarah Lester told the Township Committee on Saturday.

No kidding.

The Maplewood library became the center of the community during the widespread and prolonged power outage that followed Superstorm Sandy in late October and early November. Indeed, Lester explained, the library's visitation rate of nearly 1,000 patrons per day swelled to about 4,000 a day in the aftermath of Sandy.

The storm proved the library's value to the community once again, but also threw one shortcoming into high relief.

The library's WiFi needs to be upgraded.

Lester feels that she can obtain outside funding for the WiFi upgrade; however, Township Administrator Joseph Manning said that upgrading WiFi was a "priority" and should be added to the capital request.

Overall, Lester proposed a budget that included an allocation of $1.8 million and change from the Township — at a 1.2 percent increase from 2012. It was a request that, at least during Saturday's budget meeting, seemed to raise few eyebrows among Township Committee members as Lester enumerated the library's many services to the community and high levels of visitation and circulation.

Lester reported that library circulation — including all materials from books, to DVDs, to CDs — swelled by 5% from 2011. Lester noted that there is also "e-books on top of that."

In addition, there were 347,423 visits to the library website in 2012, up 250% from 2011 after the site had been revamped.

"We delivered 237 books and other materials to homebound patrons in 2012," said Lester, adding that this is a service that the library would like to expand.

Another highlight was the receipt of a hard-to-obtain grant from the NJ Historical Commission that will allow the library to digitize 100 years of Maplewood newspapers and make that database searchable from the library's website.

The library also had a "tremendous" response to a community survey — 1,500 responses. Among other things, patrons wanted the library to adopt more technology and wanted access to the branches 7 days a week. With the help of the survey results, "we are working on a new strategic plan to be completed by April 2013," Lester said.

Lester noted that the main library had recently benefitted from upgrades including the ADA ramp at the front entrance and new restrooms. New capital requests that Lester is making for 2013 include new carpeting for the main branch, new windows for both branches (resulting in a cost saving in energy conservation), cooling towers, and technology upgrades that would include joining a library consortium.

The Township Committee members were keenly interested in the library's plans to join a consortium of 75 libraries. "Right now, we pay for our system all by ourselves," said Lester. She noted that there is an annual fee for the consortium and a one-time initiation fee of $85,000.

Lester's personnel requests included a request to increase the publicity coordinator from 30 hours a week to 35 hours a week and to hire a full-time custodian to replace the current part-time custodial position as well as a cleaning service.

The third and final Maplewood Township 2013 budget meeting is scheduled for February 2. A draft budget will be presented at a later meeting in February.

Saturday's meetings also included presentations by other departments and one non-profit. Highlights include:

  • The court administrator Ryan Bancroft reported that the shared municipal court had  an increase in collections for both Maplewood (+$70,000) and South Orange (+$60,000).
  • The Community Coalition on Race made a request for an allocation of $34,200 from Maplewood Township for 2013. (A full story will be published on Patch on Monday, Jan. 14.)
  • Residents will likely see increases to their sewer bills this year as the Joint Meeting passes along increased costs due to an ongoing lawsuit concerning the pollution of the Passaic River, deferred capital costs and increased health care costs.
  • Health Officer Robert Roe reported that he had been notifying business in Maplewood Village about the new garbage ordinance and would soon start enforcement. "I think there will be resistance," said Roe.

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