This article is the fifth in a series pertaining to a change in distribution of grant funds received by the Bergen County Cooperative Library System (BCCLS) that was approved on June 27.  You can read parts 1, 2, 3, 4 here..

HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ -  The change in the formula that BCCLS uses to distribute the Bergen County Freeholder grant will have more than just the obvious impacts to the Hasbrouck Heights Public Library, according to Library Director Mimi Hui.  The loss in funding of approximately $2,000 for the rest of 2019, and $5,000 in 2020 will have wider impacts than just dollars. 

Because the amount of money that Hasbrouck Heights (and other libraries) received each year was based on the net-lending formula, and was variable, Hui stated that Hasbrouck Heights does not use those funds for daily operations, but used the revenues for new materials. 

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“We use the money (from being a net-lender) to get new materials,” Hui stated. “That means less new items, fewer copies of popular books - materials that benefit everyone.  We don’t buy stuff to have it sit on our shelves. We acquire our items to be in circulation with the public."

Historically, that public includes residents from more than just Hasbrouck Heights.  

“With the loss of county funding up to $60,000,“ Leonard LoPinto, Paramus Library Director stated.  “Paramus may have to reduce its budget for books and other materials for loan by 15% ($60,000.)

“Additionally,  Paramus needs to make sure that its residents have first access to the items for loan that their tax dollars pay for. Paramus is strongly considering not lending new books through the inter-library loan program. We have already begun limiting in some items in accordance with BCCLS policy and procedures.” LoPinto stated.

Hui mentioned the same types of measures might be necessary to protect the interests of Hasbrouck Heights residents, who are providing funding above the legal requirement, something that the libraries surrounding Hasbrouck Heights does not do. . That is in addition to an active “Friends of the Library” organization, that raises additional funds.

Hui noted the Hasbrouck Heights Library gets a lot of walk-in traffic from residents of BCCLS towns, who visit because of numerous reasons, including the selection and ease of use of the facilities.

So where does Wood-Ridge fall into all this?    

Wood-Ridge, like everyone else in Bergen County, is a part of the BCCLS system.  Technically, they are not funded over the minimum requirements, but do receive services from the Borough that do not count against their budget.  Last year, they were a net borrower in the statistics. So the change is beneficial to the Wood-Ridge, providing funds which they would have previously received. 

Still, Wood-Ridge is against changing the funding formula for the Freeholder’s grant.  

“Local library budgets vary widely, as the formula for minimum funding is driven by property value,” said Margaret Mellett the Director of the Wood-Ridge Memorial Library. “Monetary reimbursement for net-lending libraries in BCCLS was a mechanism put in place many years ago to allay the fears that one library would, in effect, subsidize another by opening its doors and collections to out-of-towners. As a means of incentivizing sharing, this reimbursement encouraged the free flow of library materials and fostered a sense of collegiality among libraries of greatly varying means.  

“The free flow of materials remains a priority for BCCLS, as exemplified by its significant investment in an in-house delivery service to shuttle materials.  Net-lending reimbursement has allowed local libraries of all sizes to provide incredible information access to the patron. Imagine 77 libraries lined up in a row. 

“At the same time, it fostered accountability to the taxpayers whose tax dollars fund their local libraries.  In the aftermath of the recent decision, it is that accountability that is now at stake for net-lending libraries, arguably the most generous sharers among us.  Given BCCLS’ history and shared values, the proposal to redistribute the county grant prior to securing an alternate means of incentivizing shared services seemed premature.  Ultimately, it chips away at the very foundation of BCCLS as an organization, which is why Wood-Ridge opposed it,” Mellett stated.

The Communications Director for the Bergen County Freeholders, Michael Sheinfield, provided the Freeholders position on the matter.

“The Freeholders do not place restrictions on how the annual grant money can be spent by the Bergen County Cooperative Library System,” Sheinfield stated. “Therefore it was not necessary for anyone at BCCLS to consult with the Freeholder Board.  The funding formula is an internal matter for the management team of BCCLS to determine. We trust that those with more intimate knowledge of the workings of the reciprocal lending program are in the best position to determine how the funds should be allocated.”

 

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