MTPL Board of Trustees: Please stop the closing of the Navesink Public Library
The Navesink library is the hub of a small, close- knit town that provides locals with educational resources as well as family programs. Closing the library would devastate the community and strip the residents of their convenient access to these resources and programs.
The nearby library is extremely appealing to prospective residents. Taking away this draw, the town becomes less desirable to live in, especially because the library accounts for so much of the community feel and supplements the elementary school curriculum. In addition to loosing prospective residents, the closing of the library has a direct effect on property values in the area. Taken from a study from the University of Pennsylvania, homes in Philadelphia within a quarter mile of a library were worth on average $9,630 more than homes more than ¼ mile away. This same study was done at the University of South Carolina, where households within walking distance of a library were examined to see if their property value was higher. 47% of households had increased property values due to the local library. In addition, local libraries have been found to attract new businesses to the community by creating a community atmosphere, attract patronage to the existing local businesses, helps people find jobs, and provide a quiet work area that promotes productivity and therefore economic benefit to local workers.
Having a local library cultivates education starting at a young age. In the case of Navesink, children often walk over after school for information on projects as well as pleasure reading books. Denise Moyer, a teacher at Navesink elementary, writes on the petition that “As a teacher here at Navesink School for the last 18 years, closing this library would be devastating. My students use this library for research for their 5th grade projects.” The former principal of Navesink Elementary School, Chris Halpin, writes, “As former principal of Navesink School I recognize the significant contribution to our children's literacy development of many children who have almost no opportunity to be taken to the main branch. Easy access is vital to many of our children who do not have the advantage of literacy rich homes.” As the principal for over twenty years, he witnessed firsthand how many children and families only had access to the library that was within walking distance from the school and their homes. Forcing residents to use the main branch would be stripping the children and many adults of the access to these educational resources.
Many Middletown patrons would be lost completely. The Navesink library, on average, is a three minute drive from the town of Navesink and an under fifteen minute walk from most houses. For the elementary school children, the library is a thirty second walk over from school. Upon closing this library, the commute increases to an approximate 7.5 mile drive, translating to twenty minutes on the highway. Besides from this being completely inconvenient, for some it is downright impossible. Elderly residents of the community who cannot drive on the highway, or working families who can’t drive their children during the library’s hours, lose access to the library completely. In addition, many of the programs offered at the small branches lose their draws when transferred to the main branch. Besides from parents not wanting to drive 20 minutes for story time, their children can no longer interact with the familiar faces they love at their local library. In addition, closing the branches will completely disrupt the patron traffic of the Middletown library. Because the local branches would be unavailable, the few patrons willing to make the commute would cause an inconvenience to the main library as the parking lot of the main branch is congested as it is.
Finally, the question is raised- how does the Board of Trustees plan to save money by closing the branches? The Navesink library budget states that $80,041 is spent on the salaries and benefits of the librarians as well as personnel working support services like tech support. According to the Board of Trustees, the plan of closing the branches does not include laying off any personnel. With the total budget of the Navesink library being $101,276, that leaves $21,235 to be saved. The bulk of the expenses that would be eliminated are for “Materials.” The budget states that $12,500 is allocated for the Navesink library in this area. One possibility to reduce this expense is create a Navesink Library fundraiser committee. The committee plans an annual event to lower the costs of “Materials” and “Utilities and Supplies.” A fundraising committee could be established to have an ongoing annual effort to lower the expenses.
The benefit of running the Navesink library far surpasses the money put in to keeping it open. It, as well as the other branches, is a vital part of the town community and provides educational opportunities to children and adults alike. Closing the local branches would take away access to these resources for many people who are unable to make the 7.5 mile commute to the main branch. Because the Navesink library is so inexpensive to operate, the money saved from closing would be inconsequential to what the library is trying to gain. Is $21,235 worth and economic decline, rupturing a prosperous educational curriculum, and devastating a close knit community? Navesink library was the first library opened, and is part of our heritage as residents. I propose a temporary compromise to suspend the decision until June, when the school ends for the Navesink children. Then, concerned parties could meet and discuss the matter again. For the people of the Navesink community please reconsider this decision to close this branch on January 25th.