[Editor's note: The following letter to the editor was sent by members of the Ridgewood Library Board of Trustees.]
An Open Letter to the Ridgewood Community:
The has a history of being one of the most innovative, capable and widely used community resources in the county and one of the top libraries in the state. As members of the board of trustees, we are dedicated to ensuring that it builds on that history without losing sight of .
Our library is at a critical moment in its history. As you’ll see the decisions that we make together as a community on the funding of the library will set the course for what it can achieve in the next five years and beyond. We want to outline for our neighbors the nature of the challenge and solicit your input on the right way to proceed.
Not only is the library an important educational resource for our school age population the library provides valuable educational services to the whole community. In addition to having the third highest materials circulation in the county we have more than double the program attendance of any other Bergen County library. These programs benefit a wide variety of diverse groups in our community. We’re all aware of the award-winning children’s programs but we have lesser publicized programs as well. There is an for many of the homes in our village where English isn’t spoken at home. We have a career networking group that meets right next to the resources they need to advance their job searches. Our innovative young adult programs, coordinated and run by young adults, constructively engage teens in ways that go beyond text messages, keyboards and first-person shooters.
It would be easy to conclude that in the age of iPads, Kindles, Nooks and other e-readers that the library would slowly become obsolete. Nothing could be further from the truth. . E-books are available to borrow from the library today and will be more and more available over time. We are also filling a need in helping people get the most from their devices though introductory courses in using these readers. Increasingly we are seeing that the library providing an outlet for people as a vital community center. A place for groups to meet, connect, dive deep and enjoy.
In NJ there are . The minimum is tied to real estate values. It's no surprise then that the amount that the minimum amount is decreasing. It's fallen over 7% since 2009.
The trustees have been good stewards of the village's investment in the library. The amount we spend on salaries has decreased since 2009. We have taken advantage of attrition by promoting staff from within and not replacing some staff that have left us. We have taken steps to reduce costs through an outsourcing arrangement for cleaning and maintenance services that will save money every year. We have moved to a greater mix of volunteer staff than in past years. Our staff has been ahead of the curve on vesting periods and contributing to their health insurance costs.
Costs that we have little control over have risen, sometimes dramatically. In 2009 our benefits cost was $400,000. In 2011 it was $520,000; an increase of 30%. In 2004 our state mandated funding for pensions was $22,000 and in 2011 is was $163,000. Since these costs are so challenging to control they are managed outside the operating budgets of other village departments. They remain part of the library’s operating budget.
In the past two years we have tried a number of ideas to close budget gaps created by this falling funding. The team at the library came up with innovative programs to raise revenues including renting rooms to businesses and charging for high quality color printing and copying. We have reluctantly reduced operating hours and materials spending to reduce expenses. We have reached into long-held principle in what have been savings accounts. We were very grateful that last year our village council voted unanimously to increase our funding by $35,000 above the minimum to help us limit closings and maximize our operating hours.
Our challenge is that our gap this year cannot be filled with the tactics that we have used in the past. In order to not dramatically increase the days that the library is closed and restore the operating hours to the 2009 levels, we will need a funding increase from the village of roughly $100,000.
We know that a vibrant library will continue to be an asset to the education of our whole community young and old. We know that the library is a jewel that attracts families to come to Ridgewood and stay in Ridgewood. We know it plays a central role in our community in times of emergency like in the October snowstorm when people gathered at the library even though it was dark and cold. We know this because our neighbors tell us.
We want to know what you think! If maintaining the excellent educational and community resource at the level that it has been is important to you or if you have an idea for closing our funding gap we ask that you email us at Trustees@RidgewoodLibrary.org. We are open to all ideas big and small. We look forward to hearing what you have to say and continuing this important conversation.
John Saraceno, President
Elisa Legg, Vice President
John Johansen, Treasurer
Arlene Sarappo, Secretary