A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Matawan-Aberdeen Library Board Hears Crowd's Concerns

At least four dozen members of the community packed the downstairs reception hall at the Matawan Aberdeen Public Library for the library board's monthly meeting last night. Chairs had to be brought in from throughout the library for the unprecedented crowd, who ended up sitting around the entire hall, up the stairs, and peering through a shelving unit in an adjacent room.  The board sat at a table in the middle of the room while a contingent of friends of the library listened to them conduct their routine business, waiting patiently for their opportunity to speak.

Some visitors spoke to the board's lengthy consideration of the library's broken elevator, which has been on three agendas since the elevator fell out of service in December. The board defended its process, saying it had to consider multiple options and seek bids for the repairs. The board, which decided to repair the elevator pump and upgrade the elevator door mechanism, accepted a bid from Accredited Home Elevator, so repairs should be scheduled and completed soon.

Other visitors quizzed the board on its members' familiarity with the library, having heard that one of its members didn't even have a library card.  Some members were very familiar, having been patrons for years, while others had volunteered for the unpaid board position to serve the community. The defense of taxpayers was a frequent refrain, a necessary evil but not something that comes to my mind when considering library advocacy. One board member claimed that the board was apolitical. I'll leave you to ponder that. For those interested in serving on the board, you can fill out an interest form at the township or boro hall.

Most attended last night's meeting because of a rumor circulating in the borough and township that Library Director Susan Pike would soon be dismissed by the board. While the board was unable to confirm or deny the rumor due to privacy laws, numerous members of the community took the opportunity to speak in support of the director, who has been a faithful steward of the library for over thirty years and added many popular programs. Speakers included important business and civic leaders of the community, countless library club members and library patrons, educators, and even the oldest resident of Matawan addressed the room -- a woman who worked at the school library 71 years ago. One woman who spoke began to cry, at which point an arm reached through the shelving unit in the storage room next door to provide a box of Kleenex. The board agreed to take this strong show of support into consideration during any deliberations that might take place.

In other business, those who use the Internet at the library will be pleased to hear that the board is speeding up your connection by switching to Cablevision this spring. AK Electric won a bid to upgrade the electric service at the library.


  1. In light of recent events I looked up the duties and roles of a library trustee and a library board at njstatelib.org.
    The manual states:
    It is the job of the board to:
    ♦ support growth of library services and advocate for excellence
    ♦ obey state and federal laws
    ♦ build board policies and procedures so you can work on behalf of the community for needed library services
    ♦ know the community and its needs to help produce the best library service possible
    ♦ maintain public visibility of the library
    ♦ ensure through hiring and evaluating a library director that the library has professional
    guidance and performance
    ♦ strive to obtain for the library, and for libraries in general, satisfactory public financial
    ♦ provide a model of exemplary performance of a public body functioning as a part of government

    I think that the meeting last night demonstrated that some of the reading public has some concerns about the strength of the advocacy roles of some of the trustees. At least one of the trustees said they were representing taxpayer interests. Perhaps they misspoke, and intended to say they represented the community as public library advocates. The lack of a published balance sheet since 2008 is bothersome. It makes it difficult to see if or how much of the building funds were depleted or transferred back into municipal coffers.

    Thank God for the reading clubs that showed up last night. I think it would be brilliant of them, and other library users to sit in on every monthly meeting, at least until the municipal budgets are finalized in July. We need to both affirm the Board and keep an eye on them. I am sure the Board will welcome the additional attention and support.

  2. Kudos to our blog host for spreading the word and for advocating for "the words" LOL! Thank You!