The FRIENDS of the Fanwood and Scotch Plains libraries met for the first time on May 11, 2010. They agreed enthusiastically to work together in bringing their libraries new programming, services, and equipment. In a spirit of cooperation, the participants expressed a need to support libraries no matter what form they take or where they are located. The important thing is to support public access to information of all types - printed and electronic.
The FRIENDS cooperation comes at a time of severe cuts in state aid to all New Jersey libraries. Governor Chris Christie's proposals will eliminate the state and regional subsidized databases which may impact residents' ability to view online journals and magazines and proposes to eliminate webhosting and e-mail. In addition, residents will no longer be able to borrow books from any library in the country through the interlibrary loan system. Editors at the Newark Star Ledger recently suggested that librarians counter the governor's draconian cuts with proposals on how neighboring libraries might save money by merging. The Fanwood and Scotch Plains library boards of directors recently voted to draft plans for such a merger to save money in renovating the Fanwood library building while maintain services. Plans for a new building to house the two libraries have been postponed.
About twenty people attended the FRIENDS meeting, 10 from each town's group. Fanwood FRIENDS President Carol Campell and Scotch Plains FRIENDS President Joe Quarto co-hosted the free-flowing discussion that centered on fund raising, organizing, programming, and communications.
The two groups agreed to apply jointly for a grant from the New Jersey Council on the Humanities. Meg Kolaya, director of the Scotch Plains library, said that she and Dan Weiss, director of the Fanwood library, managed to obtain more grant money when they applied jointly rather than separately.
The Museum Pass program, funded by both FRIENDS groups and launched just 2 months ago, has already garnered more than 30 participants. Library patrons who check out a box of passes may visit an area library at little or no cost. Both groups thanked Fanwood resident Jan VanHaasteren for researching and purchasing the passes.
Looking head, the two groups hope to continue to work together to offer a variety of programming and other cooperative initiatives. To keep their members informed, both FRIENDS groups plan periodical e-mail updates. Participants shared contact information to facilitate communication until they meet again next year.