The New Jersey Library Association recently started an online petition to urge Gov. Christie to increase state funding for libraries. Pat Tumulty, association executive director, said the allotted funding for the current fiscal year is $3,676,000, or 41 cents per person.
“Since he has been in office (since January 2010), the governor has continued to significantly reduce funding for libraries,” she said. “At one point, the state aid figure was around $9 million. Since the fiscal year 2011, the state budget has increased from $28.4 billion to $32.4 billion. Many programs which had suffered funding cuts in the 2011 budget have been restored. Funding for library programs, however, has remained at this decreased level.”
Tumulty said that earlier this year, bills were introduced in the state Senate and Assembly to increase the state aid amount by $5.5 million.
“This would ensure that every library that meets minimum state library service requirements would receive at least $1 per capita under the state per capita aid program,” she said. “These bills have bipartisan support. The library association is grateful to the legislators who sponsored this legislation and supports all legislative initiatives to help us reach our goal of the $5.5 million increase.”
Chief proponents are Sens. Diane Allen and Anthony Bucco, Republicans from District 7 and District 25, respectively; Shirley Turner and Jeff Van Drew, Democrats from District 15 and District 1, respectively; and Assemblyman Troy Singleton, Democrat from District 7.
Tumulty said more than 2,500 people have signed the petition.
“The libraries are also informing people about the petition and inviting them to sign it,” she said.
Tumulty said that while most library funding is supported through local taxes, a boost from the state is badly needed.
“We have some libraries that might have to cut back Sunday hours, or others that can’t purchase as many materials to meet the needs of their patrons,” she said. “The state aid money would be redistributed to libraries based on population.”
Chris Rodas, manager of the Stafford branch of the Ocean County Library, said she had discussed the petition at a meeting of the library friends organization.
“Over the years because of the economy, libraries have been more important than ever,” she said. “Buying books and DVDs can be pretty costly compared to checking them out at the library. Many people who don’t have access to the Internet use our libraries to apply for jobs online.”