Mary Packer, Executive Director, Montclair Public Library Foundation, sent this letter to the Montclair Township Council:
“Civilized nations build libraries; lands that have lost their soul close them down.” – Toby Forward, author
Dear Mayor Spiller and Councilors,
I write today on behalf of the Montclair Public Library Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization separate and independent of the library, to express the Foundation’s profound concerns with the way in which decisions are being made about the library and its continued municipal funding.
As per the Council meeting on October 19th, these decisions appear based on a forensic audit that is flawed and incorrect in numerous ways — for example, the forensic review analyzed a draft budget rather than the version approved by the library’s Board, and did not consider the Library’s own audit although those audited financial statements were submitted to the Town on August 17th.
Based on this flawed review, the Town Manager, Financial Advisor, and CFO have, for all practical purposes, recommended defunding the library – stripping it of all municipal funding in excess of what is minimally required by state statute. This unnecessary, destructive and draconian measure will have a material impact on Montclair’s citizens, including those who are most underserved, and are deserving of expanded, not reduced, library programs.
This action by the Council would not only be regressive, but would represent a refutation of the Town’s historically valued relationship with one of its most effective, diverse, imaginative and forward-looking institutions. We have not yet heard the Council talk about what inadequate funding will mean in terms of impact, what it says about Montclair’s values, and how it will serve to distinguish Montclair negatively from other comparable communities that continue to support their libraries well in excess of the bare minimum required by law.
The manner in which the forensic review was presented is particularly troubling, since the Council has provided little to no opportunity for input from the community or from those most closely involved with the library’s operations. Indeed, the library’s Board was given the completed review the Friday afternoon prior to the Tuesday Council meeting. Thus, while certain Council members and the Township Manager implied that the review was the result of give and take among the auditors and the Board, that was not the case.
I urge you, in conjunction with the library’s Board of Trustees, to examine, vet and respond fully to the issues raised concerning the forensic review before voting “yes” to anything that would fail to provide full and robust support to the library.
Moreover, you must investigate why the Town administration continues to withhold approved funding for the current year from the library, and insist that the funding be made immediately available.
The Foundation works hard to carry out its mission to support programming and special projects that enhance library services, but providing sufficient operating support for the basic functions of the library is the responsibility of the Town. We at the Foundation fear that the Town is on a path that will strip library services, staffing, and hours to an extent that is wholly unacceptable, and, indeed, will dramatically undercut the ability of the Foundation to raise additional funding in support of the library.
I look forward to discussing this serious matter with you further, and to hearing your own views on the value the library brings to the community and the ways in which you will commit to protecting the library and seeing it thrive.
Mary Packer, Executive Director
Montclair Public Library Foundation