New Jersey Library Association's Legislative Priorities 2016/2017

New Jersey's Libraries: Community Assets

Libraries are essential community assets. New Jersey libraries provide access to information, technology, e-government and job seeker assistance as well as early childhood and adult literacy services and continuing education and instruction for all ages.  Ensuring that the residents of New Jersey have strong, relevant library services to meet today’s challenges requires a strong partnership between local libraries and the state of New Jersey.

The American public values library services.  A recent Pew Research survey found that 94% of Americans say that having a public library improves the quality of life in a community.

Library Priorities for 2017

Budget Priorities

1. Fund the Per Capita State Aid Program at the Statutory Level By 2020 (NJSA 18A:74-3 et seq.)

To begin to meet the state’s statutory obligation to the per capita aid program we seek an additional $3 million dollars in FY18 as a first step towards full funding by FY20.  Current funding is at the FY11 level (a $6 million gap from the statutory obligation).  The State Per Capita Library Aid program is a direct partnership between local libraries and the state.  State Aid is awarded to libraries for meeting state standards. The current 41 cents per person per year is far below the level intended by this legislation.

2. Support Improved Funding for the New Jersey Library Network.

NJLA supports increased funding for the New Jersey Library Network to maintain its existing service programs.  Since the budget cuts in FY11, support for this important initiative has been stagnant. Core services provided by the Network are under increasing budgetary and programmatic pressures.

The New Jersey Library Network provides cost-sharing and resource-sharing opportunities such as statewide delivery, shared electronic resources and the JerseyConnect telecommunications network. This results in financial savings for all types of libraries. It is fundamentally important for local libraries to receive the services provided by the Network.  Since its inception, this extraordinarily successful program has resulted in the valuable savings for local libraries and expanded access to resources for library patrons.

NJLA is working with the New Jersey State Library to envision the next generation of broadband services.  In 2016 the NJSL and NJLA agreed to a joint planning study focused on determining the future telecommunications needs of public libraries in New Jersey.  This study will provide the framework for the future of the New Jersey Library Network’s broadband services to our state’s libraries.

Legislative Priorities

1. Enact A1427/S2633 to permit voter-approved municipal library funding

A1427 permits increases in the municipal free public library tax rate above the current 1/3 mil upon voter approval. This bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (District 37) and was passed by the Assembly in 2016.  S2633 awaits action in the Senate at this time.

Municipal public library funding is set at a 1/3 mil of equalized property values.  Without the ability to increase municipal library funding many libraries suffer from the unstable and insufficient 1/3 mil funding level. This legislation allows local communities to decide if their local library requires more than the statutory minimum.

NJLA will oppose any efforts to weaken the current state minimum 1/3 mil funding floor for municipal libraries.

 2. Vote For A Capital Construction Bond Program for Public Libraries in 2017

A222/S2171 “New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act” authorizes the issuance of 125,000,000 of general obligation bonds to finance capital projects in public libraries. If enacted these bills would permit a public referendum to approve bonding for library capital needs. These bills enjoy strong bipartisan support in both the Senate and Assembly.

A survey conducted by NJLA in Sept. 2014 demonstrated the strong need for capital funding for physical and technological improvements in public libraries to meet the growing demands of new technology, increased library usage including e-government demands and ADA requirements. Many libraries in the state are anxious to begin construction projects but need the assistance only a statewide bond can provide.  New Jersey’s economy will also benefit from this public works program designed to improve and expand our public libraries.

3. Support Legislation to Define and Implement A Statewide Information Literacy Curriculum

NJLA supports legislative efforts to provide students with access to certified school library media specialists and a standards based statewide information literacy curriculum.  NJ children are getting to college and the workforce without the information literacy skills needed to succeed.  NJLA recognizes the value and importance of highly effective school library programs and believes that access to a quality school library/media center staffed by a certified school media specialist is a critical part of every student’s education. NJLA believes that our schools must provide all students with equal and equitable access to the resources, support and instruction necessary to succeed.

Approved by the NJLA Executive Board November 22, 2016