Montclair Library Strategic Plan Target: “Center of Community”

What Will Montclair Library Survey Say About Users?Some towns have their corner deli or hometown diner or even a community center: the heart of a place, the place where folks gather, where people tend to wind up whenever something is going on around them, or when nothing at all is happening.

You probably would not encounter too much argument that for Montclair, the Public Library seems to be the place. Just five months ago, nothing could demonstrate this with more clarity than when superstorm Sandy swept through northern New Jersey. Nearly everyone in town, it seems, passed through the main library branch or its Bellevue Avenue location at some point in the first week after the storm when life was upside down, taking advantage of the Library’s extended hours and Wi-Fi to work, stay informed, keep children occupied, find warmth, watch films, and converse with neighbors.

Now, the Montclair Public Library has announced the completion of a formal Strategic Plan for the years 2013-2016 “to enhance service for all of its residents and users,” resulting from a comprehensive study by a planning committee with representation from library Board members, its director, staff, and local residents.

Could they have gotten it any more on-target than with these guiding principals?

“Vision: Our vision is that the library will be the place where community happens—the center of the Montclair community.

Mission: The mission of the Montclair Public Library is to change lives every day through words, ideas, and community connections.”

Strategic plan logo - sized

Perhaps they were able to so thoroughly zero in on the Library’s vital role to township residents because that’s who they asked to help shape their plan. Committee discussion and input was gathered by a public survey and focus groups, which identified specific trends and strategic issues, such as service for all ages; technology: adaptable and easy-to-use facilities; staff investment; resource development and governance; and identity and awareness.

Features of the Library’s new vision include five strategic initiatives:

1. Secure the Library’s role as the community’s primary information, cultural, and civic destination
2. Ensure that the Library is well supported to meet the needs of current and future generations of Montclair residents
3. Build community awareness of, vibrant engagement with, and passionate advocacy for the Library
4. Refresh, revitalize, and renew the Library to delight and amaze the community
5. Host local content creation and sustain awareness of all that is unique to Montclair

“This plan is a valuable tool that will lead the Montclair Public Library into the future. It is not just a document to sit on a shelf,” explains David Hinkley, Library Director, who also noted that progress and implementation will be analyzed annually.

The Library recently enlisted the support of book-loving local residents to reflect on what the library means to them, in a series of essays, in support of a $200,000 fundraising effort – and some folks need no encouragement to run up contributions.

You can see the entire strategic plan (scroll down to bottom of this website page to download), and keep up with all Library happenings via their newsletter, Facebook page, and website.

Click here to sign up for Baristanet's free daily emails and news alerts.


  1. The headline should read:

    “Library management has vision of more management, larger budgets and more management.”

    The primary civic destination? How about just lending out books, cd’s and DVD’s? Isn’t that mission enough?

  2. “Isn’t that mission enough?”

    —apparently not.

    god heavens ROC, are you cranky about EVERYTHING??

    Bravo to the Library folks for their efforts here.

  3. Montclair’s library is a minor treasure and the “Center of Community” agenda couldn’t be less controversial. To paint this as a management attempt to somehow further justify its funding is borderline Tea Party caricature.

  4. We have what may be the most expensive library in the state of Jersey, ROC. The vision would have to be pretty grand to justify that expense.

  5. Remember the debt problem jcunningham? The (what is it?) 20% of the budget lost to interest?

    Let’s have a nice simple, svelt library which doesn’t try to be the “center of the community” and just keeps to its simple (less expensive) mission. That goes for all the other township departments, too!

    When we’re on more secure financial footing (hopefully by 2075!), THEN let’s gussy-up the place.

  6. There is no “new MO” just familiar patterns.

    Yes, it may be the most expensive library in the state of New Jersey. It may not be, but it may be.

  7. Technology has undermined the library’s central role of lending books. Fewer and fewer people read physical books, and fewer and fewer lack access to the Internet. Sticking to the narrow role of book lending, or even providing access to information, would mean shrinking, which no organization does willingly. So the library wants to become something else: a community center, a hub of social activity, an emergency WiFi provider, a place to watch movies, hear music, etc. But this is not a library in the conventional sense.

    Maybe it’s time to stop calling it a library.

  8. I disagree, townie. The Tea Party trope really got going with the recent mayoral election. It’s a legacy of the campaign of our current mayor. I hope you’re proud to be a torch bearer.

  9. Yes, it may be the most expensive library in the state of New Jersey. It may not be, but it may be.

    It’s been pretty well documented that it is the most expensive library per capita in our little corner of Jersey. But don’t cede any facts, townie! Stick to empty rhetoric, it suits you.

  10. I HATE “mission statements.” They are usually created by a group of folks, with input from even more folks acting as if ALL that has to be done is find the right words….

    The library’s could be the YMCA’s, the BOE’s, Watchung Booksellers, or Marzullo Brothers. It also, this one sounds suspiciously like GE’s slogan: “We Bring Good Things To Life”.

    I haven’t been to the library in a while. Used to go all the time. But walleroo is right on the money (did I just write that?), technology has undercut the library.

    And from all the mission statement/strategic plan/community input, etc. there is nothing tangible in their plan. HOW are they going to get folks to do all these things?

  11. Walleroo is right. The era of the lending of in-hand media is coming to a close. We still need libraries for the poor and unconnected for awhile. But the era is closing. Should the library “morph” into something else or would it be better for the “something else” to develop as needed on its own. I opt for the latter. But I always opt for the bottom-up rather than top-down approach.

  12. MPL is a valuable public institution that is available to serve all of Montclair’s residents and that currently serves a very high percentage of them (two data points to support that assertion: there were 400,000 ‘facility visits’ last year, and 3/4 of Montclair residents have an MPL card).

    The strategic plan, and the process that led up to it, is a model for how to manage a public institution through times of dramatic change. I’m proud to live in a town that has such an institution at its center, and I applaud the people who are managing it through this period.

    Beyond the use that residents make of the library, there’s also the undeniably broad-based support that the MPL enjoys in the community beyond its patrons. One piece of evidence of that broad-based support? Nearly 700 residents donated a total of $210,000 to the MPL Foundation’s 2012. That’s an average of $300 per donor. A clear sign that civic pride in our library is very, very high.

    Regarding the mission of the library in our increasingly digital age, Andrew Carnegie said it best, long before the advent of digital media: “There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.”

    (That quotation comes from this article in the Atlantic Cities blog: )

  13. But walleroo is right on the money (did I just write that?)

    Do I detect a spring thaw? Maybe a little make-up kiss on the lips? (No tongue please.)

    I HATE “mission statements.” They are usually created by a group of folks, with input from even more folks acting as if ALL that has to be done is find the right words….

    I know what you mean, prof, but I have come round to thinking that they are essential when things are changing quickly and people need a simple, clear idea of common purpose.

  14. As Americans become more digital and secular, I can see a future American townscape devoid of libraries, post offices, and religious buildings.

  15. Based on 2011 reports, Montclair is not (or wasn’t at the time) the most expensive in BCCLS (Bergen/Essex) much less the state. Hackensack, Paramus, Livingston, and Millburn all came in w higher operating expenses and several others came in close.

    While technology has certainly changed how people use the library, and libraries are obviously still working out how to adjust to continue to support communities and stay afloat, let’s not think b/c individuals who can afford 500k+ homes (or in walleroo’s case, porches) and 20k+ in property taxes don’t use libraries as often that the rest of the population does not (remember how “shocked” you were to see the high rates of poverty in your own town).

  16. It’s too simplistic and self-assured to make definitive statements about what the future of print culture and cultural access will be in our digital era. Both the smart and savvy people who work in the industries that are being “disrupted” by digital technologies and those who are developing the disruptive technologies themselves will all confess that they simply cannot predict how it’s all going to play out. They make guesses, and they work toward various goals, but the honest ones will tell you that they really don’t know what the future will bring.

    So, if you’re a library director, the best course is to manage change as it happens, and to be flexible and responsive to the community’s needs as those needs change. The MPL seems to me (a supportive outsider, by the way, not an insider) to be taking exactly that approach with this plan. There’s no doubt that libraries have traditionally been places where “information” was sought. That “reference” function must evolve in our digital era, clearly. But libraries have *also* always been social spaces. It seems to me perfectly in line with the mission of a library for it to adjust and perhaps even expand its definition of its social function.

    And, with all due respect, Prof, if you read the actual Strategic Plan, you’ll see plenty of specifics. (You can access the actual plan (as opposed to the summary) here: )

    I’m bullish on the MPL. I hope others will join me in rallying behind it.

  17. “Libraries had the original Genius Bars and that is their unique selling proposition.”

    That was “their unique selling proposition.”

    Scant few favor the librarian over Google when searching for information.

  18. “So, if you’re a library director, the best course is to manage change as it happens, and to be flexible and responsive to the community’s needs as those needs change. ”

    Sure ok. But if you are a taxpayer the best course is to reevaluate spending priorities based on change as it happens.

    I don’t think the traditional function of a library is sustainable in the age of digital media. This the attempt to become “The Center of Community”

    Libraries, in their day, paid dividends for our free society. Information was hard to come by. Now it’s a commodity.

    Those public dollars would probably have more positive societal effect spent elsewhere. If not now, sometime soon.

    In the mean time the expansion of the mission should be avoided.

  19. Willjames, it’s true that nobody knows what the endgame is, but surely we can draw some conclusions. I can assure you that the “smart people” are not sitting around waiting for everything to play out.

  20. RoC, you’re *one* taxpayer. A vocal one who looms large in the public discussion of “spending priorities” in the local-blog ecosystem, but still, you’re just one person.

    On the other side of the ledger are at least 700 other people who have voted with their wallets, donating money (an average of $300 per donor) above and beyond the taxes they pay to the township, to support the MPL. So, current tally: 700 people that we know of who *actively* support the MPL versus you and a few of your friends here who don’t.

    There are other measures of “support,” too. Nearly 75% of the residents of this town possess an MPL library card. That’s somewhere around 28,000 people. Do all of those people “support” the MPL? No idea. But it’s a tougher row for you to hoe to prove that a majority of them *don’t* support it, don’t you think?

    But okay, maybe all of those library cards are moldering in a forgotten drawer, and the possessors aren’t actually using them. So, it’s a fair question: is the library actually being *used*–i.e., is it an important public resource–or are there “scant few” residents taking advantage of its services? Well, in 2012, 400,000 items were circulated at the actual, physical locations of the MPL. (An additional 100,000 were circulated off-site through the website.) Hard to argue, isn’t it, that that sort of foot traffic and circulation portends the death of the institution housed in that building?

    These stats don’t even touch on the numbers of people who have used, and will continue to use, the MPL without taking an item home with them: people who use it merely as a place to gather, to hear or discuss something of interest, or simply to sit in a comfortable chair and read in peace.

  21. willjames, keep in mind you are trying to reason with the some group of posters who were so convinced everyone shares in their mentality that they were shocked, simply shocked, when the local election did not reflect their views

  22. Dear ROC,
    “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.” -Neil Gaiman
    I, for one, look forward to seeing how the MPL’s new strategic plan plays out in our community.

  23. Based on 2011 reports, Montclair is not (or wasn’t at the time) the most expensive in BCCLS (Bergen/Essex) much less the state.

    If you mean total expenditures, you’re no doubt correct, raeven. But what about per capita? Didn’t the Montclair Times publish a comparison of libraries in northern New Jersey about a year ago, which showed Mtc’s was way expensive on a per capita basis?

  24. That’s a funny quote, alic. The author of it (according to my local librarian, Ms McGooglecutty) is the husband of Amanda Palmer, the rock star who, as she recounted in a recent TED talk, raised more than a million bucks on Kickstarter. Talk about embracing the digital future!

    Any librarian with half a brain is now knocking him/herself out trying to figure out what role the librarian is going to have five minutes from now, when digital technologies become more powerful and useful. Relying on comforting notions of what the world was like back in the year dot just doesn’t cut it anymore.

  25. “Nearly 75% of the residents of this town possess an MPL library card. That’s somewhere around 28,000 people. Do all of those people “support” the MPL? ”

    It’s understandable that in order to imagine me a Tea Partier, the discussion must inevitably drift to my supposed lack of support for the library.

    I support the library. It should remain funded in it’s current form probably for a decade. Now, I know that grey area is harder to deal with than a list of friends and enemies of the library.

    What I am against is expanding the library’s mission or focus, as its days are likely numbered.

    By the way, just out of curiosity, where are you getting the 75% number? Seems too large to me.

  26. “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.” -Neil Gaiman

    It would be fun to test that hypothesis. Perhaps The Center of Montclair, could host such an event!

  27. @willjames, You could almost substitute “library” for “newspaper,” or even “dial tone,” and make the same, nostalgic points. And if Carnegie were alive today, he’d be investing in cheap computers that bring the library to poor kids and the elderly.

    But I (tried) to read the “strategic” plan. But Goal #1 had 5 “Objectives” with 45 sub-objectives ranging from “changing the hours operation back to 2009” levels to “Develop a set of customer service standard and communicate them to all staff.” Still, a boring document. FILLED with bullet item after bullet item– without mention of priority, or need. Does anyone even read these things?

    I also found it ironic that the pictures in the “Strategic” plan, could have been taken at a Starbucks, Montclair Booksellers, or Barnes and Nobel. NOTHING in the pictures SHOWS me how “unique” and “important” the library is to my community (and I do believe it is). How much did they pay the firm to produce this plan?

    I support the Library in theory, I like to know its there, but if I’m honest with myself, I haven’t been in years. Hell, I don’t even know what they offer that might interest me– bad “community outreach,” but I’m sure there’s a bullet item addressing this.

    And I AGREE that IF they do some of (far too many) bulleted items, it can be the center of our community. HOWEVER FIRST, it must find a better way to communicate to the community (just checked their Facebook page- 428 Likes. Baristanet has over 3000. And once liked, those of us on FB will get a message every time they post something. Twitter? Couldn’t find it. BUT WAIT: having an “active” FB page is in the “Strategic” plan.

    But ROC is right, “if you are a taxpayer the best course is to reevaluate spending priorities based on change as it happens.”

    (And Mr. Roo, I ONLY kiss with tongue. Otherwise it ain’t real.)

  28. Digital or otherwise, it’s nice to know that there are still libraries in our midst. Where else can one read books, newspapers, magazines, and watch videos, all for free? Not everyone can afford a subscription to cable TV or Netflix, or download every bestseller on Amazon.

  29. The answers as to library funding may be somewhere here (but didn’t jump out to me):

    As to the discussion in this thread, I’m all for argumentation and accept that my use of incendiary terminology (i.e. Tea Party) only muddied the waters. I’ll refrain from using these too-easy characterizations in the future.

  30. Never said a single word in this thread about the Tea Party, ROC. Not a single word.

    But your “support” of the library is weak tea. Basically, you “support” the library as long as it doesn’t attempt to evolve and survive beyond the next decade, which you confidently assert is the remaining time it has among the living. Does … not … compute.

  31. A made a little list, using the data in the link that townie supplied:

    $75 – Montclair
    $76 – Maplewood
    $85 – Glen Ridge
    $96 – Tenafly
    $101 – Livingston
    $101 – Ho-Ho-Kus
    $105 – West Caldwell
    $123 – Paramus
    $129 – Upper Saddle River
    $139 – Roseland
    $145 – Millburn

  32. @ Waleroo, Correct, his wife is Amanda Palmer.

    And, I think a librarian would not only go to the actual physical texts in researching a question, but also to many varied and useful online resources-beyond a quick Google/Wikipedia search. Actually-I’m fairly certain they would.

    Gaiman is a rock star in his own right.
    Has also been involved in other Kickstarter campaigns before AFP was so incredibly successful with her’s last year.

    Hey-here’s an idea, why not roll on over to the MPL to do so? They have a bunch of his books on hand(a quick internet check on their website from my office here in Central NJ brought up over 60 results!)- even eBooks if you prefer to read on a tablet device. 🙂

  33. I believe someone (a certain marsupial) owes someone else (whose B’net moniker is another name for “lifelong resident”) an apology about “facts” vs. “empty rhetoric” etc., given the per-capita figures cited above.

  34. Thanks for the list willjames. Not sure how that squares with the Montclair Times story that ran not long ago, but Ms. McGooglecutty couldn’t find it in the 3 minutes I gave her. The marsupial is confused. Not good. Well, at least we’re talking about facts now, which is a good thing.

    Alic, I have no time to go to the library. The tremendous productivity increases from digital technology means that I’m busier than ever, and physical travel is just out of the question. Can they send a hologram?

  35. Many Montclair residents have a real need for the Library & it doesn’t look like that need is going away any time soon. The schools funding for libraries has come down so students use the library. Many latch key students head there after school to do homework & rely on the computers to access the Internet (and don’t have these resources at home). This is why the Turner slate recommended looking for partnering with outside agencies to help fund the library & address technology needs in the schools. They suggested the possibility of partnering with tech resources, to provide extra computers for those who can’t afford them at home & as a way to support an implementation of a town-wide, networked technology initiative for the schools. This was to be housed in the library, which might be the largest in the state, with the benefit of helping to absorb some of costs to run the building. It was an idea driven to meet the needs of the town, schools & residents rather than to “delight & amaze” the community.

  36. Its easy to understand why ROC prefers the digital alternative to that old fashioned library. After all, it was extensive knowledge of technology and his canny research on same that allowed him to predict with such accuracy the results of the recent presidential election.

  37. “Scant few favor the librarian over Google when searching for information.”
    Agree – and librarians should wish Google, Bing, et al, continue to grow. Libraries can now can focus on value added, premium services at the community level…while being more nimble and responsive to customers. Basic brick & mortar retail…and they a franchise monopoly and tax free status.

    “Information was hard to come by. Now it’s a commodity.”
    Libraries have had a traditional inventory based model – almost like a banking mindset. Google is a transaction based model based on highly perishable demand. The content is irrelevant in many respects. It is the transaction that matters. This is why they need a simply customer interface and an insatiable need for greater bandwidth.

  38. And ROC, I agree with you that their funding this year should not be increased by $175,000 in 2013 until they can show ‘proof of concept’.

  39. I wish Frank and allaboutthenumbers were running the library.

    Frank, dude, help me out here. Didn’t the Montclair Times run a big front page story a while back saying that our public library was the biggest around? Or am I insane? And if I’m not insane, how does this square with willjames’ numbers? Danger! Danger! It does not compute!

  40. No, that’s not it, though you’re right that it says NJ’s fifth largest. Which if true would be quite something. What I’m remembering was a front page story comparing Montclair’s library with a bunch of others from towns nearby. I cannot find it anywhere. If only I had the assistance of a librarian. Or perhaps I could just crowdsource it.

  41. Not my numbers, Walleroo. The NJ State Library’s.

    Let’s just concede, even absent a citation, that there exists somewhere out there an article that contends what you recall it contends. Whatever. Maybe it was right at the time. That doesn’t change the fact that your contention about the present situation, that the MPL “is the most expensive library per capita in our little corner of NJ,” is wrong.

    What is it you said when townie dared to doubt your assertion that the MPL is “the most expensive library” in these parts? Oh yeah: “Don’t cede any facts! Stick to empty rhetoric, etc.”.

    Physician, heal thyself.

  42. Townie supplied the link waaaaay after I called out the empty rhetoric. That doesn’t warrant an apology. Sorry!

    I wouldn’t care so much about the numbers except that I remember that Montclair Times article because it was so darned good, and now it has been expunged from the record apparently. Is this a conspiracy of… librarians? And in any case we have the “fifth largest in the state” quote in the Times. So: no concession. Sorry!

    But I really want to get to the bottom of this. Frank! Help!

  43. Oh, willjames, I had a gander at that spreadsheet. First of all, I had to download it to my hard drive, which probably gave me all sorts of viruses. My bank account will no doubt be cleaned out by morning. Second, that is one big ass spreadsheet, with very small type. However, a quick glance tells me that there are way bigger libraries than Montclair’s in the state of NJ, so I don’t know what that fifth largest bs is. So all right, I’ll concede that much. But there is no way I’m going to start calculating per capita expenditures. It’s frickin’ 1:23 am and I have work in the morning.

    I am in a holding pattern until Frank weighs in.

    Frank! Oh, Fraaaaank…

  44. “We have what may be the most expensive library in the state of Jersey, ROC.”

    —wrong. an outright falsehood.

    “It’s been pretty well documented that it is the most expensive library per capita in our little corner of Jersey.”

    —here it comes…

    “Didn’t the Montclair Times run a big front page story a while back saying that our public library was the biggest around? Or am I insane?”

    —you’re not insane. you are just a know-nothing loudmouth who can’t back up what they say.

    “I am in a holding pattern until Frank weighs in. ”

    —i wish. you’ve prattled on and prattled on and have no idea what you are talking about.

    “But don’t cede any facts, townie! Stick to empty rhetoric, it suits you.”

    —you are a sublime genius, walleroo.

  45. Is there a plan to get the Homeless out of the Library? Liberals can rephrase it to, is there a plan to provide adequate shelter to the Homeless population, because the Library is substandard shelter & is not open 24/365.

  46. Walleroo,

    Dude, you downloaded the wrong document. The “2011 Statistics Book,” a PDF file, has everything you need in handy, no-calculations-necessary form, if you don’t trust my straightforward transcription of that data. There’s a single column that provides the per-capita figure for every municipality in the state. The document is here:

    Your online-research skills seem remarkably tenuous for someone so enamored of the new digital reality.

  47. And re: research and the relevance of the library, there’s this interesting tidbit:

    Craig Silverstein, Google employee #3 and former Director of Technology (and basically the man who knows the most about the developments behind and within the world’s most famous search-engine) famously predicted in 2004 that it will take 200 to 300 years “until
    computers are as good as, say, your local reference library in doing search.”

    I don’t really place my chips on “research” capability as I’m betting on the continued vitality of the public library in our culture, but nonetheless it’s amusing to hear a respected technologist state that even in this limited “informational” role, digital technologies alone aren’t rendering the library (or the librarian) obsolete.

    He’s quoted here, in case you want to read the quotation in context:

    Rock on, MPL.

  48. MPL expenditures are only about 10% above the State minimum funding required. Funding is determined based on population and adjusted for property value equalization. As such, the math almost precludes Montclair from being the most expensive o any metric. FYI, MPL is around NJ’s 20th largest in terms of total expenditures. 5th largest in circulation within the BCCLS system of about 74 libraries.
    Based on their circulation, visitors, etc., it is still a extremely viable institution. To me, added value and added funding go hand in hand. Clearly, the underutilized Upper Montclair branch is both an opportunity and a liability in this regard. It is pretty clear the Bellevue Branch can not exist long-term with its current, traditional offerings as a neighborhood version of the main branch. It, more than the main branch, has to reinvent itself and specialize just as we have magnet schools that specialized. Furthermore, it will probably require a private or municipal collaboration to make it economically sustainable. The Friends of Bellevue have put a patch on it, but the real costs have only been delayed.
    There are very smart and talented people involved in charting and leading the MPL’s future. The Bellevue branch remains a significant challenge, but one that is a bellwether of the focus, commitment and hard choices the MPL will need going forward.

  49. willjames, your link to the google quote is from 2004. Google introduced it’s google books plan– to scan EVERY BOOK– in December of 2004.

    So perhaps Mr. Silverstein, didn’t quite know what was going on. Or perhaps he did. And was let go because his views were outdated….

    Regarding the “very smart and talented people involved in charting and leading the MPL’s future,” I have no doubt to this. BUT we can all agree that very smart and talented people when working in groups, can make bad decisions, correct.

    Here, I go back to this “strategic” plan. Looking at that document alone, I worry. If not for the MANY objectives, but for the imagery it sets forth in its terrible, terrible pictures.

  50. Thank you, Frank. I am heartened by your faith in MPL leaders, truly.

    I am delighted to concede the point that the MPL is not a gigantic carbuncle on the face of the planet. But does anyone remember that Montclair Times lead article on local libraries that ran, oh, maybe a year ago? It was a big piece, comparing Montclair to other towns, and was splashed across the front page.

    If not, please update me on the status of the home for the elderly and infirm that was proposed near Church St. Me want to go there.

  51. Prof,

    Yes, the quote is from 2004. That’s why I said that Silverstein “famously predicted in 2004…”

    He left Google in 2012 to join Khan Academy, by the way. Not exactly an ignominious departure. There isn’t a hint of his being pushed out, but even if that were the case, it would probably be the result of his engineer’s tendency toward tactless honesty when speaking in public about the company, rather than a failing of intellect or vision. His technological prowess is universally celebrated in Silicon Valley, and he is seen as one of the primary (if not THE primary) sources of Google’s long-term “vision” of information-access.

    So, given all that, I’m confident he made his 200 to 300 year prediction with full knowledge of Google’s plans and capabilities well into the future, and with a better understanding than nearly anyone of the likely trajectory of artificial-intelligence capabilities, which were the real context for his comments regarding librarians.

    And regarding that document that worries you so much, I’m guessing it’s an example of a genre that you probably hate in toto. You shouldn’t take your distaste for the genre as evidence of anything specific to this document in particular. Those of us who have to read these things in the all-hallowed private sector see much worse and less concrete versions of such documents every day. In its genre, it’s pretty damn good. The pictures? Whatever.

  52. The librarians on the 3rd floor have been incredibly helpful when my son and I visit every Monday. They find Star Wars books that he covets, help him discover appropriate books to choose for his sister, and their enthusiasm for the books surrounding them is invigorating. Granted, it doesn’t take much for my family to get excited about books, but it is always a wonderful place to visit.

  53. So if these is to be the “community center’, with adequate funding, is the idea of buying the Social Security building, which would also be used as a “community center” still on the table?

  54. @willjames, thanks for the biographical history.

    But forgive me if I’m suspicious when you choose to use a decade-old quote, from a “Director of Technology,” without addressing the idea that at some point, ALL the info in the library will be available online (google has partnered with major libraries and universities).

    Not this should direct the actions of the MPL, but it’s instructive for a discussion on the library being the center of community when this does impact our HIGH-ASS taxes.

    Regarding the Strategic plan you now dismiss, isn’t this the document that shows and “proves” the value of the institution? But I’m suppose to ignore it? And then go on whose word? Yours?

    Moreover, that you so easily dismiss the terrible use of visual imagery to convey meaning in the document is telling. For the library to tell its story, I would hope that at the very least, the chosen pictures support their thesis.

    They do not.

    But then again, you want me to ignore the document, ignore the pictures, ignore the facts, and just keep writing my property tax check because YOU say it’s important.

    Again, the library can be the center, but if this doc was produced to convince me, and gain my support, it fails. Heck, you did a better job here!!

  55. Good lord, Prof. Seriously.

    I didn’t tell you to ignore the document. I asserted that you probably don’t like *any* document that has the words “Strategic Plan” on the cover and that follows the generic template that all such documents follow. If you are actually a fan of some examples of the genre, then I apologize for making that assumption.

    Your complaint about a lack of concrete particulars continues to baffle me. There are so many such particulars, each of them presented under a clearly-expressed goal, that I almost don’t even know what to say in response to you. Maybe their ‘small-bore’ specificity somehow strikes you as comical? But it’s not at all unclear (to me at least) what is meant by, to take just two examples, “Initiate a Planned Giving program” or “Relocate the Young Adult Room to second-floor space.” There are many, many more easily-understood line items of similar concreteness in this document.

    Anyway, be persuaded or don’t. I don’t particularly care. You’re only one person. As am I. As we all are.

  56. 400,000 facility visits last…rent some space for a frozen yogurt store, a nail salon, and a yoga studio…problem solved.

  57. Thanks Frank, that’s an eye-opening article:

    As a result of the library hubbub, The Times compared the budgets of libraries in five other municipalities – Hoboken, South Brunswick, Teaneck, Linden, and Bloomfield – to examine how Montclair’s library stacks up with those in towns with similar populations.

    Since there have been numerous iterations of this year’s library budget – the one first proposed by library officials last year; a second anticipating a 10 percent cut in municipal funding; a third suggesting a $700,000 cut – The Times chose to use the $4,062,096 budget proposed by library officials at the end of last year.

    The financial records reveal that Montclair’s library tops the list in almost every category: total budget; municipal funding; salaries; spending on library materials; and the amount the average taxpayer pays annually for library services.

    Sounds like it is overfunded to me.

    Kulwin told The Times the 1/3 of a mill figure is merely “the minimum acceptable.” It’s ludicrous, he said, that a funding formula instituted in 1885 still applies today.

    Like I said:
    “Library management has vision of more management, larger budgets and more management.”

  58. “You’re only one person. As am I. As we all are.”

    Wasn’t that Bob McAllister’s sign off?

    WillJames, perhaps you missed my point. That document has over 50-non-prioritized- bullet points, that you found anything in it “clearly-expressed” is beyond me.

    And yes. I continue to point to it because that is all we have. Save for your eloquent nostalgia, which again— I agree with (at least, some of).

    Couple this unfocused (my words) vision (I’ll leave out the embarrassment of the pictures), with ROC’s point about the budget, and I wonder, is everything about this plan acceptable to you? Do you really think that our Library must, in order to be the center of the community, the most expensive around?

  59. Thank you, Frank. Believe it or not I actually spent significant (more than 10 mins) time searching for that article, on Google, on the Mtc Times web site, on Nexis, and it just doesn’t come up anywhere. But, despite all the beta-amyloid plaques in my brain, I remembered it. A small personal victory.

  60. I feel it necessary to make one final statement, in a lame attempt to clear my name (which probably will only result in a deeper hole). I am not anti-library, nor anti-Montclair Public Library. I acknowledge that the MPL does good work, and that it addresses many needs of town citizens. However, I worry that it is grandiose in its ambitions and needs to be reined in. And it is way, way too much of a sacred cow.

  61. I did use Google to find your article, but I used a customized query based on algorithm I found in an overdue MPL book. I also distinctly remember the librarian in 1998 that pointed me to this particular tome.

  62. Flipside,
    If the MPL could ever divest itself of the open stacks, there would be room for that and a NJ MVC satellite facility. If we want to go full digital, let’s get rid of the driver’s test in a parking lot and replace with a full Dolby sound simulator. Then we would have a library that “amazes & delights”.

  63. ROC’s “point about the budget” is what, exactly? That it “seems overfunded to [him]?” Compared to what? Based on what criteria?

    Look anywhere in the statewide data for 2011, and you’ll find MANY examples of communities whose per-capita library expenditures exceed (in some cases FAR exceed) Montclair’s. There are even a good number of communities with populations smaller than Montclair’s that either match or exceed our expenditures in *absolute* terms (e.g., Princeton, Westfield, Livingston, and Millburn, for example).

    Princeton $4.9 million / $170 per capita / 29K residents
    Atlantic City $4.6 million / $117 per capita / 40K residents
    Paramus $3.2 million / $123 per capita / 26K residents
    Livingston $2.96 million / $101 per capita / 29K residents
    Millburn $2.9 million / $145 per capita / 20K residents
    Westfield $2.8 million / $93 per capita / 30K residents
    Montclair $2.8 million / $75 per capita / 38K residents
    Ridgewood Village $2.7 million / $106 per capita / 25K residents
    Ocean City $2.6 million / $220 per capita / 12K residents
    Avalon $2.5 million / $1,848 per capita / 1K residents
    Summit $2.4 million / $110 per capita / 21K residents
    Englewood $2.4 million / $90 per capita / 27K residents
    Seacaucas $1.9 million / $116 per capita / 16K residents
    Franklin Lakes $1.6 million / $154 per capita / 11K residents
    Margate City $1.2 million / $187 per capita / 6K residents
    Berkeley Hts $1.2 million / $89 per capita / 13K residents
    Bedminster $1.1 million / $126 per capita / 9K residents
    West Caldwell $1.1 million / $105 per capita / 11K residents
    Bernardsville $1 million / $137 per capita / 8K residents
    Upper Saddle River $1 million / $128 per capita / 8K residents
    Glen Rock $1 million / $90 per capita / 12K residents
    Montvale $830,000 / $106 per capita / 8K residents
    Roseland $808,000 / $139 per capita / 6K residents
    Carlstadt $800,000 / $131 per capita / 6K residents
    Glen Ridge $636,000 / $85 per capita / 7.5K residents
    Old Tappan $611,000 / $106 per capita / 6K residents
    Cranbury $576,000 / $149 per capita / 4K residents
    Ho-Ho-Kus $413,000 / $101 per capita / 4K residents


  64. I read RoC’s point as the MPL Board has said the sky is falling at $4.1M, $3.xxMM, $2.xxMM. “pilot to copilot, we’re going down!” surprise! circ is up…we’re going to kick Livingston library’s derrière, etc. etc. and taxes are down more than a cool mil.

    Now, the MPL comes out and says we need to remodel, reinvent, repurpose, rebudget. I get the plan doc – the constraints, the coalitions and the timing. It’s not a good format, but not a big deal. What it lacks is that one, definitive, “holy crap, that is out of the box thinking” feature.

    I wasn’t kidding about getting rid of the open stacks.

    If you stand back and think about it objectively, it is an obvious prerequisite to this plan. As a matter of fact, no prerequisites are cited. Their fear is my fear.

  65. One final, final note, and the I swear I’ll give you all a rest: I know we are in the new era of citizen journalism and all, but Baristanet sometimes (and certainly with this article) squanders its chance to be that reasonable, trusted voice in the community. I’m talking about what used to be called, in that bygone era, “objectivity.” I wouldn’t advocate trying to impersonate the NYTimes, heaven forfend, but surely the breathless, sycophantic language Lisa Romeo uses to report on what should be considered news is not the way to go:

    Could they have gotten it any more on-target than with these guiding principals?

    Perhaps they were able to so thoroughly zero in on the Library’s vital role to township residents because that’s who they asked to help shape their plan.

    You probably would not encounter too much argument that for Montlcair, the Public Library seems to be the place.

    I’ve seen press releases that were more measured.

  66. People here seem to have their minds made up, as usual, but I’d like to add a few points.

    Unlike many towns, Montclair does not have a community center, so the library plays that role. We will not be getting a community center in the old Social Security building; the town is buying it, developing it, and turning it into ratables.

    As an admittedly “heavy user” of the library, I can tell you that it serves every swatch of our town. Sure, there are several homeless folks who use it as a refuge, but there are also many elderly patrons, and families, and kids with nannies, and then the schoolkids come in the afternoon.

    As far as the users you don’t see–I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have at least one book or movie either checked out to me or on my online request list. (It’s kind of like Netflix.) So when I get the email that my requested item is available, I go in to collect it.

    When Hurricane Sandy hit, and during the 2011 Halloween storm, the library had heat and power. The place was packed with those (like me) who didn’t. Again, it was a community center.

    When I think about all the dollars I’m not spending at Amazon (or paying to PSEG when I have no lights or heat), I see the library as an incredible bargain, and I am happy to pay more than my share. But it’s not just what I get out of it personally, it’s what I see it doing for all of us in this town.

  67. 77 comments and still going strong. Perhaps we need to move on to a less controversial topic like politics or abortion rights.

  68. “Guiding principals”?

    Does the library offer any books highlighting the proper usage of, oh let’s say, “principles” versus “principals”?

  69. Baristanet’s boosterism is right there on its sleeve, Walleroo. It’s easy to see. Whereas the Montclair Times’s article very discreetly wears its assumptions and biases below the surface. The latter is more of a journalistic problem than the former, by far.

  70. @willjames, thanks for the number, BUT they must be in the context of our HIGH ASS property taxes (mrs. prof’s scream of “$20,000 in f-in property taxes?” still echo through the wine cellar walls).

    I have no problem with library. I also have no problem with homeless folks at the library. I also believe for some, it’s a community center (as is the YMCA), BUT what I object to is this idea that for it to continue as such, it must be bigger, and bigger, and more expensive.

  71. “we can aim higher”

    —knowing what the facts are before citing them might be a good place to start.

  72. “they must be in the context of our HIGH ASS property taxes”

    —news flash!! commenters on baristanet complain about high property taxes! think that will accomplish something! film at eleven!

  73. Oh, and I’m still waiting for you to address my point about the imagery of this “community center.” First is the terrible imagery of the Strategic Plan. But what is more embarrassing is the Montclair Public Library’s webpage. A cluttered, unfocused mess. Looking at it again, it’s even worse than a mess. Horrible!!!

    Compare the Montclair Public Library webpage to Princeton’s here: (In fairness, Ridgewood is just as bad as Montclair’s.)

    And compare it to Montclair’s “other” community center, the YMCA ( Simple and clean.

    This matters because taken together with this strategic plan, I question where, and to whom this money is going. And whether their “vision” is sound.

  74. @ jcunningham, you read my post wrong, mrs. prof’s scream was after a bottle of a “nice Chianti.” She was thrilled that the tax on the Estate were ONLY “f-in” 20k.

    Sorry. I should have been more clear. But as I’m sure you know, a Tuscan can fuzz the mind.

  75. A revised website is on the agenda, according to the Strategic Plan. And you’re right that it needs to be. The Princeton site is a very nice model; I hope that the MPL leaders see it and try to match it. (See that? That’s how you concede a point properly.)

  76. This conversation may already be over-but I just came across an article about community livability and a ranking of the top 10 children’s libraries nationally that’s worth sharing here I think. From the article, “Each one should be responsive to its community rather than beholden to some kind of national standard,” says Roger Sutton, editor in chief of The Horn Book, which reviews and tracks children’s and young adult literature. “The best libraries pay attention to their communities, and the best librarians are those who really pay attention to the child in front of them, as well as the child who is not there but should be.”
    Some incredibly unique & welcoming spaces are highlighted here:

Comments are closed.