NJLA Correspondence with New Jersey State Library Regarding Rochelle Park Library

June 5, 2017
Mary Chute, NJ State Librarian
New Jersey State Library
185 W. State St., Trenton, NJ 08625

Dear Mary,

On behalf of the members of the New Jersey Library Association, I am requesting a determination by the NJ State Library on the ability of the Rochelle Park Library to receive any funding or statewide library services provided by the NJ State Library including but not limited to state per capita aid. We have been notified by the Bergen County Library Cooperative (BCCLS) that Rochelle Park Library has lost membership status in BCCLS because an independent board of trustees is no longer in charge of the Library.  According to news reports, the library is now a” department” of the municipal government.

In order to borrow materials from other NJ libraries, the municipality has stated it will rely on the services of the New Jersey Library Network, a state funded program established to share resources among legally established libraries in New Jersey. Among the services provided by the NJ Library Network are JerseyClicks, JerseyCat, JerseyConnect, and a statewide delivery system.

It is the position of the New Jersey Library Association, that since Rochelle Park is not operating as a municipal public library as defined by New Jersey State Law, it is no longer eligible for any state or federal library services

New Jersey law recognizes three types of municipal libraries.   Municipal libraries established by referendum under NJSA 40:54-1 et seq.;  joint libraries established by referendum under NJSA 40:54-29.4 et seq.;  and association libraries  under NJSA 15A  and receiving funds pursuant to NJSA 40:54-35.  All of these libraries require an independent library board of trustees overseeing the operations of the library. There is no provision under NJ municipal library law for a library to be considered a “department” of municipal government.  

The decision to operate the Rochelle Park Public Library as a department of municipal government and provide reading materials and programs to its residents is a local decision.   However, the use of state and federal funds to provide library services to a library organized under a structure not recognized by municipal library law should be prohibited.  If not, little would stop a municipality from declaring any library structure such as a room staffed with volunteers or the now popular “little libraries” as a municipal service and demand expanded services to its community through services provided by state and federal funds.  The integrity of municipal library service as defined in State law must be upheld by the State Library.

The Rochelle Park Public Library has been a member of the NJ Library Association for several years so it is very difficult for us to take this position. However, we must ensure that state and federal library funds are only used by those libraries organized under NJ state law.

We are requesting a determination as quickly as possible.  We believe the residents, library staff and municipal governing body of Rochelle Park must know if their proposed outline for continued library services relying on services provided by the NJ State Library and the NJ Library Network complies with state law.

Sincerely,

Chris Carbone, President, New Jersey Library Association

Response from Mary Chute, New Jersey State Librarian