Mount Tabor Residents Concerned Over Library Cuts

The Mount Tabor Library

PARSIPPANY — The February 27 meeting of Parsippany Library Board of Directors was packed with a standing-room only crowd of concerned Mount Tabor residents.

The residents attended to voice their concerns over the cutting of the hours, cutting of programs and rumors of closing the branch.  Mount Tabor library is walkable for the many children who live in Mt Tabor. In a gesture for the Standing Room Only turnout for the Library Board meeting President Dr. Joseph Weisberg moved the public comments section of the meeting to the start of the meeting.

Library Director Jayne Beline assured the crowd the Mount Tabor Library was not closing. She also stated, “The Township has been very supportive of the Library.”

Board President Dr. Joseph Weisberg opened the meeting by addressing the audience. “The Library Board appreciates all of the interest in the Mount Tabor Library branch. All of our decisions that the Library Board made with regard to the six-hour cut were very well thought out. We made these decisions so that the Library branch could remain open,” said Dr. Weisberg.

Area children addressing the Library Board

He continued, “To clarify, we had to make additional cuts in services, not just the reduction in hours cut at Mount Tabor. At the main library, because our Sunday grant was reduced by 50%, we are now open only 26 Sundays a year instead of 37. We have been asked to postpone the needed renovations at the Lake Hiawatha branch. This project was slated at $1.5 million, (based on an estimate from 2010) but after the plans were drawn up the scope of the project changed and now the project cost is estimated at $3 million.’

The Mount Tabor branch hours went into effect February 6 are Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Tuesday 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 9:00 a.m to 1:00 p.m.

The Mount Tabor branch is open 34 hours per week now. That is a reduction in the schedule by six hours. The Lake Hiawatha branch is open for 58 hours per week. The Parsippany Main Library is open for 64 hours per week plus four extra hours on 26 Sundays.

Year round, the Library is responsible for covering 156 public service hours.

It was stated at Mount Tabor Library, there are full-timers using four of their 35 hours a week to cover the branch. The branch head at Lake Hiawatha works at Mount Tabor one day a week to oversee operations, meet with staff and assist with coverage. There are four part-time staff workers at the branch.

Total salary to operate the branch is $62,373; Heat costs are $652; Electric are $1194; Telephone is $950 for an estimated total of $65,169 yearly. To restore six hours it is estimated to cost between $7,500 and $9,000.

Mayor James Barberio said the Camp Meeting Association of Mount Tabor (CMA) offer of $1 per year rental with the Township maintaining the building was under review by Parsippany Township Attorney John Inglesino and he would follow up on the status and the CMA to finalize the agreement. CMA Board members reiterated that the Bethel was always available at no cost for Library special programs and had never been proposed to be available for rent. The Bethel is actually a value added to the Library for popular Children’s programs to use more space for free.

The discussion from residents included using volunteers. All volunteers would need to pay for a background check at an estimated cost of $30 to $40. The volunteers would have to be placed on the Library’s liability insurance policy. It is estimated it would cost between $500 and $600 more. All volunteers are required to be trained in the Library’s policies and procedures. Each volunteer would need to be paired with a staff member. It would require a volunteer coordinator to manage the volunteers. If a volunteer is the second person there and does not show up, the branch may need to be closed. Mayor Barberio pointed out that there are many volunteers working for various Parsippany departments (firefighters, ambulance, etc) who are already covered under the township liability insurance so this should not be an objection, and he would check into the liability.

It was noted the Library has a budget of $2.8 Million, and the cost to operate Mount Tabor Library (with the cuts) is approximately $70,000.

Resident Jim Lau swiftly calculated this is just 3.5% of the total Library budget for one of three Library branches.

Area resident Glenda Hasse stated “Reinstitute the Youth Programs – that encourages use of the different aspects of the Library.  Children are encouraged through school programs to get their library card and make good use of it. There are class trips to the library to encourage and familiarize students with the library. Children use the Library as a resource for homework. Adults and students use the computers for access to the Internet. Research. Job Hunting, when funds are limited to have a private internet service.”

One resident brought up the cuts in Children programming at Mount Tabor. He said, currently Mount Tabor has no children programs, while Lake Hiawatha branch has 32 and the main library has 44. Dr. Weisberg said “If the Board determines that storytime should be offered at Mount Tabor, they could assign librarians from the other two location to conduct storytimes.

It was also suggested by an area resident, “Be creative with the hours. open from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. instead of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., so everyone can use the library.”

The building has served as the community library since 1889, and then became a branch of the Parsippany-Troy Hills Public Library.

The Main Library moved to its new headquarters in 2006. The library is conveniently located off route 202, at 449 Halsey Road. It is in walking distance of an elementary, middle and high school.

The Lake Hiawatha library was established in 1937, but has occupied the present site since 1968. In 1994 the interior was renovated and expanded so that the library Branch could better meet the needs of its neighborhood service area.

Nestled in the Mount Tabor section of Parsippany, the Mount Tabor branch building occupied its present site since 1889. It is the smallest branch but is located in a beautiful setting near Trinity Park.

For more information on Parsippany-Troy Hills Public Library, click here.