To measure how popular a spot the is, check out the number of vehicles in its parking lot during operating hours.
On nights and weekends, when the branch at 55 New Monmouth Road offers classes or cultural events, finding parking in the asphalt lot that wraps around both sides and the rear of the building is a study in frustration according to .
"It's harder to find a place to park and there's a lack of handicapped parking spots," O'Neal said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
However, with the seven-member choosing to apply nearly 72 percent of its approved $3.8 million budget for calendar year 2012 for library employees' salaries, wages and benefits, much needed parking lot repairs are on hold, O'Neal said.
The trustees' goal is to protect its employees' jobs and to avoid layoffs, furloughs, closing branches, or decreasing hours of operation, she went on.
It is the employees at the main branch and three satellite branches in Lincroft, Port Monmouth and Navesink who meet patrons' needs, seven days a week, O'Neal pointed out.
"We would like to make some improvements to the parking lot, but not at the expense of our services," she said.
Decreased funding in the amount of $183,339 prompted the trustees to withdraw $115,500 from their $799,178 unrestricted surplus and $34,725 left over from the 2010 budget according to documents posted on the library's website.
Those two withdrawals, combined with $61,500 in expected fine and photocopying revenues add up to $211,275. The trustees are counting on that money to replace the lost township funding and to keep the doors open, the lights and computers on, and the unionized staff on the job.
Expanding the parking lot to add more stalls, more spaces for disabled patrons and to repair its surface is still on the trustees' table, but no one is calling contractors for estimates.
"Parkng lot improvements are still a consideration, but we don't know if we'll have the money to do them," said O'Neal, a
The township is paying the debt service on the library's $8.5 million capital improvement project completed in 2003 and 2004 inside and outside of the 40-plus-year-old building that houses the main branch.
Township officials, who kicked in $3.6 million in taxpayer funding for the 2012 budget, are unlikely to help pay for parking lot repairs because other municipal departments will be seeking taxpayer money for their own projects, O'Neal said.
For that reason, the trustees have maintained as much funding in surplus as state law allows to cover budget shortfalls or emergency expenses, she noted.
"The library has had its turn, and the board felt it was its responsibility to build up its reserves," O'Neal said. "The board knew it was the responsible thing to do."
Expanding the parking lot would have to be greenlighted by township officials, but the expense would fall solely on the trustees.
"We are under the explicit understanding that the parking lot at the main library needs township approval, but any expenses related to it must be paid by the library board," she said.
Meanwhile, the aging structure housing the also needs infrastructure improvements.
"The Lincroft branch is very needy," O'Neal said.
The library's total $3,822,109 budget for 2012 is $37,612 less than the 2011 budget of $3,859,723 for 2011. Besides salaries, benefits and wages, the library budget must also cover utilities, purchasing of materials, and operations at each branch.