By Ron Leir
You can probably find him in the card catalog under “Poets” but for the past two years, you’d also find him circulating everywhere in the Kearny Public Library.
And, as of last Wednesday, the presence of Joshua Humphrey in that special space got the official stamp of approval from the town’s governing body when its members voted unanimously – and wholeheartedly – to the permanent position of Library Director.
His annual salary was fixed at $87,383.
Humphrey, a lifelong Kearny resident, has been serving as the acting director pending his certification by the state Dept. of Personnel. He and his wife Jennifer have two daughters, Catherine, 4, and Anna, 1.
Councilwoman Eileen Eckel, the liaison to the Kearny Library Board, said Humphrey has “brought a sense of calm and dignity” to his job during fiscally stressful times, as the library – due to budget constraints – has had to cut back its evening schedule.
Eckel also praised the director for working toward a “community center outreach” approach by “pulling into the library all different groups of people,” particularly encouraging high school-age youths to use the facility; by being “actively involved” in upgrading technology; and by attending events that the library hosts.
“I look forward to many years of his leadership and calm affect,” Eckel concluded.
Mayor Alberto Santos characterized Humphrey as a “tremendous talent – we’re very fortunate to have him.” And the mayor credited the director with helping make two recent library events – the golden anniversary screening of “Gone With the Wind” and the Farmers Market Cookbook launch – a success.
Humphrey agreed that, “we have a lot going on at the library,” and that it was certainly by design, since “a community center (concept) is what I’m striving for,” by using the library as a focal point of a variety of different activities for all interests and all ages.
And, to make the library a more user-friendly place, Humphrey said it has arranged a series of job resume workshops — because “we see a lot of people out of work” – and has “installed tables for wireless services” and expanded technology – “eBooks have taken off” – and is now in the process of “reconfiguring shelving” to make the library “more handicap-accessible” and “provide more aisle space” for patrons in general.
“Now is the perfect storm of everything coming together,” he added. Yes, the mayor echoed, “it’s a gem and we’ll work with you to make the library reading garden – something we’ve talked about for a while – a reality.” If the town can’t secure Open Space grant funding from the county, Santos said, “we’ll find other ways to finance it.” The mayor also expressed hope for the library to organize a “poetry slam” to “showcase the poets in town,” including Humphrey, whose work has appeared in such publications as the Journal of New Jersey Poets, Paterson Library Review, Lullwater Review, Sensations Magazine and Mentil Soup. Humphrey said that W.H.A.T., the new Kearny-based theater company, “has approached me to do exactly that.”
In an interview, Humphrey said the library also hosts such activities as children’s storytime and art programs, Literacy Volunteers of America, movie screenings, book club and knitting circle.
During his high school years, Humphrey said he used the town’s branch library at 759 Kearny Ave. “a lot” for researching homework assignments and general reading. Experience as a part-time monitor/ shelver/desk worker at the Kearny Library after college “prompted me to get a master’s degree in library science from Rutgers University in 2002,” he said.
If the reading garden comes to pass, Humphrey said he’s also hopeful of developing an outdoor amphitheater where such events as concerts and exercise classes could be conducted.
The library, with seven full-time employees and a $1.3 million budget, operates six days a week and has evening hours, until 8 p.m., on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. It claims about 20,000 cardholders.