NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – In 2021, the New Providence Memorial Library will celebrate 100 years of serving the borough. To help prepare for the anniversary, members of the New Providence Memorial Library Board have posted a survey on the website and provided a printed one at the library.

The survey asks residents what they think about the public library, how well it provides its services and what changes community members would like to see.

Library Board Vice President Kelli Stieh and Lisa Florio, the director of the library, appeared before the council on Aug. 12 to explain about the survey and to appeal to more residents to fill it out. There are 20 questions on the survey and it should take only a few minutes to fill out, Florio told the council. 

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The five-year strategic plan for the library created by the trustees will end next year, 2020, and with the centennial happening in 2021, this is the right time to stop and ask residents what they want the library to offer as it begins its second century of service and the board crafts a new strategic plan. 

Mayor Al Morgan said the library will be applying for a matching grant to help upgrade the library. That grant would come from the New Jersey Construction Bond Act, a $125 million matching fund approved by voters in 2017.  At this point there has been no information on how to apply for funds, but everyone is hopeful the information will soon be available.

For those who might think libraries are so 20th century, the number of participants in the programs should change their minds.

Florio said this summer there was “200 percent more teen participation” in the summer reading program, “a 240 percent increase in the number of adults and a 16 percent increase” in the number of kids taking part. “We want to make sure our patrons and whole community get a chance to give us an opinion,” she said.

Stieh confirmed that the library is busier than ever, as did Council member Nadine Geoffroy.  

A lot has changed since the public library was formed by a group of interested residents 100 years ago, There was no actual library building, instead the residents kept the books in their own homes. It was a time when access to reference books, magazines and world news was expensive and limited.

Even when there was an actual library building, the focus was on acquiring materials for adult education. It wasn’t until the mid-1940s that public libraries offered books and programs for young children.

Today, in the digital age, libraries continue to offer a full complement of services designed for people of all ages. Those services can include special programs, art shows, crafts, concerts, and books in all formats, from hard covered books to e- and audio-books, as well as movies and more. There are newspapers, magazines, digital databases designed for research, STEM clubs for youngsters and “how to” classes for novice users of digital media, just to name a few offerings.

The mayor said he has long thought a library should be viewed as a community center and it seems that is what it is becoming.

The survey can be filled out online via the library website at www.newprovidencelibrary.org or as a printed copy available at New Providence Memorial Library, 377 Elkwood Ave. For more information call 908-665-0311