New library chief already well-known to most patrons

Photo by Ron Leir Leo Bellino is the new borough library director.
Photo by Ron Leir
Leo Bellino is the new borough library director.


The North Arlington Public Library Board didn’t have to go far to find a new library director. In fact, Leo Bellino was already at the library on Ridge Road working as the children’s librarian when Kristin Nelson vacated the director’s post last year.

Reference librarian Kathryn Landis was named acting director until the library board designated Bellino to take over as director, effective Jan. 4, at an annual pay of $54,000.

Originally from Jersey City, Bellino’s family moved to the borough when he was 13 and he was graduated from North Arlington High School. “I still live here and I’m only three blocks from the library (located at 210 Ridge Road),” he told The Observer in a recent interview.

He received a master’s degree in library science from Pratt Institute in New York and, currently, he’s taking 14 hours of classes at the N.J. State Library required of new library directors.

“I volunteered at the library in 2013 and I was appointed children’s librarian in February 2014,” Bellino said. And he’s continuing to handle the duties of that job while he’s serving as director. “I do Story Time for kids ages 3 up to 9,” he added.

Bellino said he’d like to hire a part-time children’s librarian but if he cannot fit it into the 2016 library budget, “I’ll take over that role.”

In the meantime, he said the library will continue to function with six full-time staffers, including himself, and three part-timers to service the needs of what its website lists as more than 10,000 card-holders.

And for now, he said, library hours will stay the same: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Wednesday and Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The library is closed Sundays.

Bellino said his two biggest priorities currently are working on the library budget for 2016 and filing a state report that is required to qualify for the nominal amount of state aid the library receives each year.

“I’m also preparing for our summer reading program which will be funded by Friends of the North Arlington Library,” he said.

In settling into the role of borough librarian, Bellino said that while, on the one hand, “I know the staff and a lot of the patrons, as director there are much more responsibilities and a lot of little details to handle but nothing really unexpected.”

Bellino said the library is trying to become more technology-friendly to patrons by replacing outmoded Dell computers “which don’t have much tech support” with 10 new models for adult users. Cost is expected to run $2,000 for an electrician’s services plus $10,000 to purchase the new terminals.

And three new early-learning computers are slated for in the children’s department, he said.

“Next year, we hope to get new computers keyed to our teen patrons,” he added.

Program-wise, he said, “we had a recent financial planning seminar for our seniors which was well-received and we hope to offer more of those. We are also continuing our ESL (English as a Second Language) program for adults.

“We also have our comic book club where kids from sixth grade and up read graphic novels the last Tuesday of the month,” he said.

Asked about the borough library’s future, Bellino had this to say: “The library is the jewel of the crown in any municipality. Unfortunately, the powers that be on the federal and state level generally don’t see it that way, in terms of decreasing aid to libraries.”

But now more than ever, Bellino reasoned, with more and more people feeling the economic pinch, “the library is becoming like the watering hole of a community but that’s not just in North Arlington – it’s across the country.”

“This is a really important service we provide,” he said. “Realize that not everybody can afford a home computer or access to Wi-Fi.”

Most folks, though, can still function with a landline or cellular phone but when they use that device to contact the borough library at the general number, they are greeted by a recorded message, part of which says that, “We are operating on summer hours through Labor Day.”

Bellino acknowledged that the tape needs updating but said that’s something for which he needs someone more technologically adept to remedy. Hopefully, sooner rather than later.

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