By Jennifer Vazquez
Though the Kearny Library has seen a reduction of its operating hours –for both the main building and it’s branch office –due to a shortage of personnel, the current workers, director and Library board are still committed to providing patrons the services and programs they have learned to love and expect.
While the library is going through a difficult patch, as it tries to recapture some of the staff that was laid off or retired within the scope of the last year, Kearny Library Board of Trustee President Jennifer Cullen reassures patrons that they need not worry.
“We only cut back four hours,” she explained. “We cut back two evening hours on two weekdays for (the main library) and cut back an entire day in our branch.”
The entire day that was cut out of the library branch’s normal operating schedule totals four hours as well.
The Kearny Library system finds itself short on staff due to many circumstances, including the layoff of one of their personnel. However, this staff member was let go by the town, alongside a few others last year, due to budget cuts. Add to this the fact that another full-time staff member retired and a part-timer left due to health reasons, the library, and its branch, are functioning with few library monitors and Kearny Library director Josh Humphrey as one of two full-time staff members, alongside Senior Children’s Librarian Joanne Friedman.
Nevertheless, it is of vital importance to point out the dedication and commitment those involved with the library are displaying. Humphrey, for example, has stayed past his hours to make sure there was someone in the library to oversee a group or a previously arranged meeting.
Although the Kearny Library system is lacking from personnel, the town is actively looking to hire additional part-time library monitors, according to Humphrey.
“The town is ultimately responsible for hiring and firing library personnel,” Humphrey said. “The library, in a way, is like a department of the town.”
According to Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos, the town is in the process of interviewing candidates for these entry-level positions, hoping to come to a decision in hiring as soon as possible so that the future new employees can commence their positions by the beginning of the new year.
According to certain guidelines set forth to receive aid grants, one librarian is needed per each 10,000 residents, according to Cullen. Though Kearny has a population that requires, according to these guidelines, four staff librarians, the fact is that roughly 2,000 of these residents are inmates in the nearby Hudson County Correctional Center.
Despite this fact, Humphrey is optimistic about possible revenues coming into the library.
“The State Library is very understanding,” he said. “With (library grant monies) its not whether they give you the money or not, it’s mostly the quantity that they’ll give you based on your need.”
Though the Library Board is not instrumental in the firing or hiring of staff, after much consideration, they did decide to cut back on the hours due to the limitations any organization would have when understaffed. Nevertheless, this cutback in hours should not, and up to this point, has not affected the activities or patrons in a drastic way, according to Cullen.
“Essentially, the hours we cut back on, are the slowest,” Humphrey confirmed. “Night hours are usually our slow hours.”
Santos also stresses the fact that the library has seen cutbacks, just like all New Jersey municipalities. However, these cutbacks are not to deter the activities or all the other offerings that the library provides.
“While there have been some cutbacks in the evenings (in terms of operating hours) compared to surrounding towns, I think we’ve managed,” he said. “We are committed to maximize (the library) even with all the suffered cutbacks.”
Cullen shared the same sentiments.
“The new hours haven’t really affected our activities,” she said. “As a matter of fact, if you look around (to neighboring towns) we are one of the few libraries that offers many activities.”
The cutback of the four hours to both the main library and the branch, as of now, has not affected the average number of patrons who visit the Kearny Library. Anywhere between 12,000 to 14,000 people use the library on a monthly basis. The new operating schedule of the library and the days the library was forced closed due to the inclement weather has not deterred the patrons since usage has been an estimated 10,000 this month alone, according to Humphrey.
Santos is proud of Humphrey, Freidman, existing part-time staff and the Board of Trustees since the fact that the library is still providing unaffected programs and activities to the patrons is a “test to their dedication.”
“I take my hat off to the work that they have done,” he proudly boasted.
“This library fills the need that many in the community have,” Humphrey said. “In a way, we are a community center.”
Santos fully agrees.
“Our public library functions as a traditional library and a community center,” he said. “It is an important resource for our residents.”