NEW JERSEY - When voters head to the polls on Tuesday, November 7, one of the public questions on the ballot lets voters decide on the NJ Library Construction Bond Act. If the referendum passes, it will allow the state to issue $125 million in bonds. From the proceeds, grants will be provided to public libraries for renovations, repairs, improvements and technological upgrades. The bonds will not impact property taxes, but will allow local governments to make improvements to their libraries by only providing 50 percent of the funding required to make enhancements. The other half will come via a grant that libraries must apply for.
"If the bond passes, the Spotswood Public Library would be able to apply for a grant to cover 50 percent of the cost of any building or renovation projects," said Spotswood Public Library Director C.L. Quillen. "While we have done a number of things to update and improve the library over the past few years, there are several things that still need to be done, including electrical upgrades. When the library was built in 1973, there was not the same need for power that there is now and the grant would help us improve in that area. We were also the recipient of a grant in 2017 that covered the cost of consultants to assess the library and make recommendations for renovations and improvements. Based on their recommendations, we are currently evaluating a plan to move the children's section of the library, add some computers for children and make a few other changes to improve the usability of the library."
Despite the growth of the internet and the public's reliance on smart phones and tablets, Quillen feels that public libraries remain an essential part of communities throughout the Garden State.
"Libraries bridge the digital divide," Quillen said. "People still come in to use our computers, either because they don't have one at home or because they rely mainly on a phone or tablet and there are some things that are easier to do from a desktop computer. There are also many people who come to Spotswood Public Library for help in doing something on the computer, such as formatting a resume, applying for a job, getting help downloading e-books or searching for information that they're unable to find on their own on the internet."
"I don't think the internet is phasing out libraries at all, but it has changed libraries," Quillen said when asked if libraries are becoming obsolete. "Libraries are a third space, not home or work, for many people and the Board of Trustees, Friends and library staff in Spotswood have all been working together to make our library more welcoming and inviting. We'd like to be the place in town where everyone comes together regardless of their ages, backgrounds or views. While we still offer the traditional services like story times and books, the library is so much more than that and we welcome residents opinions on what else they would like to see here."
The Spotswood Public Library offers a wealth of programs for both children, tweens, teen and adults.
"Library programs help to develop literacy and a love of books in children through the collections, programs and services that we have and while their children are in the program, we provide a spot for parents and grandparents to sit and develop friendships that go beyond our four walls," Quillen continued. "Thanks to the generosity of the Friends, we have a museum pass that residents can borrow to use at the Grounds for Sculpture and we have a community of adults and seniors who come together almost every Monday for a movie and a social connection."
"The Spotswood Public Library brought approximately 150 people together to watch the Great American Eclipse in August," Quillen said. "Adults and families will be coming to the library next week for a magic show and card holders can choose from over 500 free online classes through Universal Class. And that is only a few of the things that the Spotswood Public Library has to offer to the community."
According to the Library Builds Communities webpage, it has been more than 15 years since the last Public Library Construction Act. After that referendum passed, 68 NJ towns constructed or renovated their libraries. In 2014, the New Jersey Library Association asked communities to participate in a Capital Improvement Survey to assess the condition of public libraries in the Garden State.
The results found many public libraries were in need of technological and electrical upgrades like the Spotswood Public Library as well as facility improvements. According to survey results, at least 50 percent of Garden State libraries were not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and were in need of ramps, elevators and restroom accommodations.
Libraries like Spotswood have reached out to its patrons for assistance in passing the upcoming referendum by providing literature on tomorrow's bond vote in addition to taking to social media platforms.
For additional information on the Library Construction Bond Act visit the Library Build Communities' webpage