As a newcomer and onlooker in the Middletown area I must say I was taken aback, when I heard that library officials were seriously thinking about closing not just one local library but THREE! I couldn’t help but think, “What’s the hell's going on?” I’ve attended plenty of public meetings in my life and the one entity which communities cherished, and respected, were their libraries.
You know libraries are those warm, cozy, places, in society that makes you feel welcome and wanted. Libraries provide young readers an abode where they can read at their own pace. Libraries empower older learners by providing a vast selection of literature. Good old fashion libraries which give all people equal trouble-free access to peacefully assemble and share. My little granddaughter loves Mrs. Eileen the Liberian at Lincroft Library and Mrs. Eileen treats every child the same. Library staff impart to children socialization skills of being courteous and well behaved. Libraries are good not bad right?
After much thought and prayer I attended a library board meeting and I have to say this: I got lost on the way there. Once locating the library I walked into a sea of white faces different ages, and genre, many where moms, and dads, with their kids, others were lawyers, nonprofits, and business people. All arrived to address and oppose the small board of library stewards Thursday, Jan 16 at the Middletown Township Public Library, 55 New Monmouth Road. The library board members and trustees starchily showed any emotion to the serious arguments, stands, or pleads, in which Middle Towner’s and their neighbors had taken.
For a moment I felt like I had been transported back to the 1800’s as I watched the local towns’ folk, quietly yet angrily rail against the ruling class which by happenstance held the authority to decide what they may or may not have. One woman addressed the crowd and board and admitted that she beheld the waters from storm Sandy surround the little library in her town but not over take it.
She perceived, that “God had spared the little library to survive Hurricane Sandy and if God so decided to preserve and save the little library from being overcome with water and not removed, who was this Middletown Board to decide to destroy something that God himself has spared!” The crowd jumped enthusiastically to the woman’s endorsement of leaving the libraries open for public’s use.
A jolt of excitement flew thru the air as one by one of these quiet angry folk addressed the board with one mike and one lens. I almost felt like saying free the slaves but it wasn’t that kind of party (or was it?)
This bout of civic response was by means of a notice issued by Library Director Susan O'Neal that the board had posted on the three threatened library branches that read, “Pending final approval of the Trustees of the Library, we regretfully announce that all branch libraries are scheduled to be closed to the public on Friday, January 25, 2013, at 5:00 pm. This action is necessary due to major budgetary constraints. Discussions with local community groups and schools will continue to pursue ideas and possibilities for some type of neighborhood library services in the future."
A tail spin of responses to library closings via chatter on the streets to social media arose. A 12 year old girl started a petition to keep the Lincroft library open. “She has more than 350 signatures,” her mother Janice Melillo of Lincroft said. One person’s response to the Patch’s January 15th, “Opinion: Rethink Closing the Libraries,” graciously shared by Eliz Pomeroy was that, “The reason these branches are closing is because of the insane spending practices of the library in the past. They gave their workers 6% raises three years in a row.”
The responder of comment seemed offended that Pomeroy said that, “Less than 2 years ago there was a $1.1 million dollar surplus in the library budget and now it is all gone.” Middletown happens to be one of the largest land masses in Monmouth County. It only makes sense that they should have more than one library for petitioners to visit. (That has face validity.)
Right now it takes me ten minutes to walk to Lincroft library with my grandchildren (eight and four years old.) But it’s at least six miles to the Middletown library! It’s a legitimate argument to share that it would take most parents from Lincroft hours to walk with their grandchildren to Middletown Library. Not to mention, that for some reason or another that road which leads to Kings Highway is constantly closed for repairs. (Kids from Middletown High School South can tell you that!) I’m old fashioned; I believe that exercise is good for you. I believe that children should be able to walk around the area where they live and become familiar with people, places, sights, sounds, and smells. But I also believe that exercise shouldn’t kill you.
Director Susan O'Neal, a non-voting member on the board, was quoted as saying, in the Patch Jan 17, 2013 that in 2009 the budget was $4.1 million. Now, in 2013, it is projected to be $3.4 million. "We had to make up a decline in our funding -- and an increase in expenses -- at the same time," said O'Neal. "The impact has been devastating."
Are these rational disputes? Cost of living raises? Or that real estate values declined? Storm damages and policies? This is the validation to eradicate not just one but three libraries? I had to get a couple of second opinions to see what others comprehended about this library situation. I went to folks I know from Brookdale, & Monmouth College, school officials, government officials, associated press, church folk, and DYFS. Every person thought it was simply outrageous.
I trust these individuals’ responses to be true, because these same people reacted the same way when I shared about updated, twisted, vagrancy laws that are blocking citizens with dependent children from project housing because they have bad credit. This foul principle puts children into, “at risk situations,” that could have been prevented by allowing income eligible citizens’ access to housing instead of using twisted vagrancy laws from the late 1800’s but I digress.
Do you see what I mean though? Doesn’t that just make you feel yuck on the inside? These types of thinking methods might be plausible to the people who think them up, but in the end other folk find their priorities and opinions in bad taste. Just like that room full of Middletowners on the 16th of Jan. (That crowd didn’t look happy at all.) Look at these noticeable examples. Close not one but three public libraries. Block citizens from public housing. Put Mommies on the front line when war breaks out. For some reason these actions don’t seem conscientious or pleasant. But people probably had good intentions when proposing notions.
I am not negating storm outcome. Hurricane Sandy was real! And there are hundreds of families still affected by the storm’s wrath. The question is, should citizens be punished for what the storm did or are local leaders making necessary cuts to keep their townships heads above financial water?
Thank you for taking the time to read my commentary. Be sure to attend the next public meeting on Feb 20 Wednesday, at the Middletown Township Public Library 55 New Monmouth Road, Middletown, at 7:00 p.m. And may I say touché mon amie! May the children win!