It has been over a week since you informed me ON THE PHONE, and OVER A WEEK PAST THE EXPIRATION OF MY TERM, that you have decided not to reappoint me to the Parsippany Library Board of Trustees after my thirty years of service. I “graciously” accepted your decision at that time, but time has offered me the opportunity to reflect on your decision, and to respond accordingly.

When I retired from corporate library life thirty years ago, I felt I had the credentials and experience that would benefit the public library in my hometown, Parsippany. I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Library Science, and at that time, had twenty years of work experience in my chosen profession as a librarian. When a position became available on the Town’s Library Board of Trustees, I offered my services to Frank Priore, the Mayor at the time. He didn’t know me and admitted he had no knowledge concerning the governance of a public library. After consulting with several people who did know me, he appointed me to the Board. Since that time, I have served under 5 Mayors, of both political parties, contributing many hours of volunteer time to the Parsippany Library. I have been President and Vice-President of the Board several times over the intervening years, and for at least the last 25 years I have been the Chair of the Building and Grounds Committee, gaining invaluable knowledge and expertise in the construction and maintenance aspects of our three library buildings. In conjunction with the Director and the members of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, I have interviewed many architects, advised and consulted on the renovations of both the Main Library building on Halsey Road and the Lake Hiawatha Branch, and dealt with many workers in the building trades. I feel that your failure to reappoint me was based, therefore, on your professed intention “to take the Library in another direction”.  I am not exactly sure what that means, but based on your questionable hiring practices and appointments since you have become mayor, it seems that your intentions are purely political, based on party affiliations and supporters within your party who contributed to your election campaign, past and future.

When Benjamin Franklin initiated the formation of the first lending library in America in 1731 his goal was to make books available to the common people, a luxury previously only afforded to the clergy and the very wealthy. The library was to be open to the public and free from government control and intervention. The State mandates that our libraries operate as such, with an operating body separate and independent from the municipal government. Apparently, the role of this autonomous governing body of our public library negatively impacts your desire to exercise power where you can. So, since you have the power to appoint people to the library board, that is the “different direction” you have chosen in not reappointing the person(me), who has the background, qualifications, and experience to retain the position. I think your decision was mostly political, though it must be noted that other members of the Board were told in the past that you would like to see some “younger” members on the Library Board. The issue of age discrimination aside, I find your failure to reappoint me to the Library Board to be arrogant, misguided, and insulting, especially in light of the fact that the construction of a new library branch in Lake Hiawatha is being discussed. You have dismissed the person with the most experience in an undertaking of this magnitude and importance. Your timing could not have been worse!

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In closing, I wish to note that in our phone conversation, you neglected to even thank me for the thirty years that I have spent in uncompensated service to the Library, the Township, and the community. You obviously have an agenda Mr. Mayor. I sincerely hope that the outstanding library system in Parsippany does not suffer as you pursue your very political agenda.

Roberta Chopko