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Opinion: Rethink Closing the Libraries

Libraries are important for communities

When I had to move from Essex County a year ago to be near family I searched out a house I could stay in until I got old. 

It had to be within walking distance of a NYC bus, a milk store and a library. After 7 months of looking I found it here in Middletown, 0.6 miles from the Navesink Library.

Imagine my horror when after I settled in and started paying attention I read in November that maybe the library would be closed! 

After the holidays I went down to offer to volunteer and found out it was all over. The library was closing the end of January.  I looked up the minutes of the Board of Trustees and found it was business as usually until November when there was a good amount of discussion about the pros and cons of shutting down libraries. 

In 60 days from what seems to me to be preliminary discussions to a public statement that a decision has been formalized… in only 60 days.    

Less than 2 years ago there was a $1.1 million dollar surplus in the library budget and now it is all gone.  About half of that was given to the municipal budget along with reassurance form the mayor that this would not cause the library to close.

And yet that is what is happening.

When you say, “I am from Bayshore” or ‘I live in Navesink” it means something to you.  According to urban design theory, it means that you have memories, present circumstances and future purposes that revolve around the places where you live.  It is your personal geography.  

Common places that are touchstones for personal geography are landmarks and sacred spaces.  People use these special and unique spots to orient themselves, identify a place, for activities, and generally give meaning to their lives. 

When a place is part of a common experience, like a library, then you have what is called a social space.  It is created unselfconsciously and defined by society for a functional reason. It helps give you identity and connection to community. It helps define a community’s future.

I believe more discussion on the options possible with the limited funds available ought to take place before any final decisions are made about leaving empty public buildings as the future of Middletown. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

jerseyswamps January 16, 2013 at 03:37 PM
I remember when the only library was a house on Kings Hwy. near the train station. It worked well. Residents should be thrilled with the very modern and large facility on New Monmouth Rd.
Polly Graf January 16, 2013 at 07:17 PM
"fires a principal because one BOE member was mad at him" You have no idea what you are talking about, that never happened.. "hire new superintendents every few years" Hello. The superintendents keep leaving because they can't work with our BOE,
Lisa January 16, 2013 at 10:04 PM
I've lived in Navesink for 46 years. I grew up using that library and so did many of my friends and neighbors. My daughter and her friends have used it too over the years. JasperRam is correct in noting that the main branch is out of range for many of our children. It is really a sin that the last year the board voted to give money to the township because they had a surplus of monies and now they are trying to shut down a vital resource to our small community.(I'm guessing a few board members have changed since last year). They had promised that this wouldn't happen. It's a disgrace! Lisa
JasperRam January 16, 2013 at 11:12 PM
Just find a way of keeping these libraries especially those near the Title I schools like Navesink and Port Monmouth. The children of our town and their families use them and need them. When the town was such that kids were able to walk on our streets for a mile or so - long time ago - one library may have been enough.
Pilgrim February 07, 2013 at 03:08 AM
Joe, or is it Gerry, care to comment on theTOMSA pension and healthcare that Pat Parkinson (former Township Committee person and Executive Director of TOMSA) is enjoying in his retirement in North Carolina and the healthcare that Tom Stokes, TOMSA alternate, is enjoying in Florida six months of the year and the pension he will enjoy when he retires and pension and healthcare that Joan Smith former Township Committee person is also enjoying, with all of this is being paid for with Middletown taxpayer dollars. There is far more evidence available to support that it is the financial mismanagement of the Township Committee that is accountable for the present financial condition of the Middletown Library: cell tower lease sales, the gross costs of building and maintaining the Middletown Arts Center; poorly planned property revaluations; underserved five figure bonus to the tax assessor; years of emergency appropriations (millions of dollars) for health care; engineering studies conducted by T&M Engineering for Shadow Lake dredging and turf fields; the original purchase of the Swim Club (with the very recent $1,000,000 appropriation for this asset that the Township no longer owns); the Conifer Project along with the recreation fields that Middletown taxpayers are paying for that will belong to Atlantic Highlands; years of bonding/debt service. This great recession brought all of this to light and and forced the Committee to take surplus and more from the Library budget.

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