NJLA Statement: Urban Libraries Are Essential

The New Jersey Library Association advocates that all communities and elected officials
fund urban public libraries at levels above the statutory minimum, which will allow these
institutions to provide necessary and effective services for all residents of the state.

Economic environment
The economic difficulties of the past two years have been extremely challenging for all
residents of New Jersey but particularly for those living in urban areas. High
unemployment, reduced afterschool programs and limited technology access have all
contributed to a decline in opportunities for urban residents. New Jersey’s urban libraries
provide essential services that residents need for survival and success.

Library response
Urban libraries provide a wide variety of resources and services that no other single
institution can provide. As community anchors, these libraries provide: assistance in
finding employment; access to government services; access to and assistance with
technology; support for small business owners; a safe environment for children to read
and learn; support for learners with indispensable resources critical to their success; and
public programs for education, entertainment, and literacy.

Statutory minimum funding for libraries in New Jersey is based on local tax bases.
Because these bases are limited in New Jersey's urban communities, cities have
historically funded their urban libraries above the statutory minimum in order to enable
these libraries to provide the essential services needed by their communities. State aid to
cities ameliorated the funding burden. When state aid was cut, cities were forced to cut
library funding to the statutory minimum. The results of inadequate library funding have
been devastating: hours have been cut, libraries closed, staff eliminated, and books and
online resources reduced.

Reductions in funding in cities like Camden, Trenton, Newark, and Jersey City are
destroying the equal opportunity lifeline for those who are disadvantaged, poor, poorly
educated, or newly arrived in this country. Urban libraries are a critical and essential
governmental service that ensures equal access to information for all communities.

Developed by the NJLA Urban Libraries Section and adopted by the NJLA Executive
Board Sept. 21, 2010