Voters Save Borough Library in New Jersey

Voters Save Borough Library in New Jersey

The voters of Jamesburg, New Jersey, decisively defeated by a vote of 959–564 a ballot measure November 4 asking for their approval for the town to “discontinue the support, maintenance, and control of the Jamesburg Public Library.”

Jamesburg library board President Carole Hetzell told American Libraries that the cash-strapped town council came up with the proposal in the hopes of reallocating the one-third-of-a-mill mandated by the state for more than 120 years for support of voter-approved libraries to other municipal needs. She explained that the ballot measure came a year after town officials proposed closing the library in 2007. “There was such a hue and cry, with people storming the borough council meetings, that the council backed off” until earlier this year she said, noting that there is nothing to prevent the borough council from revisiting the proposal in 2009.

What defeated the 2008 measure was a concerted campaign by trustees and library Friends. In addition to using yard signs, banners, and media contacts, volunteers canvassed the one-square-mile community of 6,500. “One of the big planks in our platform was that the library is centrally located, it’s within walking distance of everybody, it’s a safe place for the kids to be,” Hetzell recounted. The strategy tied neatly into the theme of an unrelated Revitalization Committee of Jamesburg campaign theme, “It’s a Walking Town.”

“When we’ve done surveys in the past, people always say they love the intimacy of our library,” Hetzell noted, adding, “Here we are in an economic crisis and you want to take out a place where people come to do resumes, to look on joblines, where they don’t have to travel to by car. I’m a taxpayer. I know money’s tight, but this is senseless.”

Posted on November 5, 2008. Discuss.