The Bernardsville Public Library faces a lack of funding


Claire Taylor

Entrance to Bernardsville Library; Open to the public 8 hours a week on average.

Claire Taylor, Staff Writer

The Bernardsville Public Library relies on town funding to operate. The library has had tightly squeezed expenses over the last two years. Even though the Borough has had to balance many programs like the Police and the Recreation Department, they have a certain amount of tax revenue, so they have tried their best to keep the funding to the library relatively steady. They have done just that by funding the library a little over the minimum amount. 

There are ways the library gets its funding from other organizations. The Bernardsville Library Foundation— a way for the library to have a source of private funding— helps pay for the electrical bill and personnel costs. The Friends of the Bernardsville Library is a volunteer-based board in which volunteers supply programs for patrons and staff. The organizations have the mission to support the growth of the library, but the Library Board of Trustees is where new staff members are elected, and they ultimately deal with Borough budgets. 

The Board of Trustees President, John Bertoni, stated, “The same tax base has shrunk. Real estate has shrunk. The borough has been responsible, but the borough doesn’t want to go into debt. Looking at where they have obligations, the pile of excess has gotten low and a library is a place they can squeeze. The COVID-19 funding wasn’t used for a while because the library was closed.”

Impacts of the uncertain funding can be seen through factors like reduced operating hours; Starting in 2021, the Library has been changing its hours  to adjust for budgetary reasons. The library has had to close on Sundays and shorten its hours to One PM to Five PM. 

The population of Bernardsville as of 2021 is 7,808. There is a New Jersey State Law for all municipal libraries which states that libraries serving a population of 7,500 to 9,999 must be open 35 hours per week, as well as have a minimum of 1,750 hours open a year. This means as a smaller-sized library, the Bernardsville Public Library has to be very tight on its funds to ensure it is meeting the legal requirements while also supplying enough money to fund the staff. Currently, there are 6 full-time staff members and 16 part-time staff members. Every year staff members get a 2% raise, also adding to the issue of lack of funding.

Public libraries are used as the center for many things in local communities: introducing young people to reading, free wifi and computer usage, a place to study and relax, and overall being a hub where people can learn. Libraries are not going away. The only thing that stands in the way of all libraries is deciding which projects and what positions to commit to, as all have costs attached.  

The Bernardsville Public Library is one of the largest institutions in Bernardsville, as it has been open and serving the community for over twenty years. In a study done by the Library Journal of over 214 public libraries in the United States, “Despite receiving less federal funding as a whole, the smallest libraries—serving populations of 10,000 or fewer—reported the biggest increases in operating and materials budgets, at 4.3 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively.” 

On January 12th, 2021 the Bernardsville Library joined MAIN (Morris Automated Information Network) which provides services for 49 libraries in New Jersey and allows the Bernardsville Library to save money and have access to upwards of three million services.