BLACKWOOD – Saying the public libraries are in “the frontlines of the employment situation,” the head of the state’s library group called on the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Tuesday to restore funding to last year’s level to keep existing services in place.
Patricia Tumulty, executive director of the New Jersey Library Association, said Gov. Chris Christie’s budget has proposed a 50 percent funding cut in library programs, from $7.2 million to $3.6 million.
If possible, Tumulty also requested $5 million in aid to libraries in towns where unemployment is very high.
She said at a time when library visits, which numbered 53 million last year and the number of materials being checked out (64 million items), are higher than ever, more help is needed from the state.
Tumulty said many patrons use the library’s computers, which provide free Internet access, to search for new jobs, create resumes, and beef up their computers skills. They also participate in many workshops focusing on career development and job searching. Some of those patrons don’t have home computers.
“To apply for any job today, you need access to a computer and the Internet,” Tumulty said. “It is the reality of the job market. Unfortunately, not everyone has those basic job-seeking tools.”
Continuing to provide these services, Tumulty said, remains difficult, given that budget cuts are forcing many libraries to slash their hours of service, if not entirely shut down.
As examples, Tumulty said that Trenton closed four of its five municipal libraries, Montclair shut down one of its branches, and Haddonfield gave its workers furloughs.
Tumulty said the libraries are committed to continue being resources for residents’ professional development, but it requires a strong commitment from the state as well.
“It is our new roles in the area of workforce training which is so critical today,” she said.
No questions were posed by the Senate Budget panel.
The committee heard other testimony during the day: