There is much business on the upcoming meeting of the Library Board, especially if you are interested in the future of the library. 

An architect hired by the Board last year will be making his presentation on the condition of the Lincroft Branch.  Dennis Kowal and associates were hired to assess the structural condition of the building, updating a survey done 10 years ago by T&M.  They were also instructed to make recommendations on how to make the facility more suitable as a branch library, given limited financial resources.  We are looking forward to this presentation because this branch has had only cosmetic work done to it and no one ever really asked the serious questions of functionality. 

The timing is awful, to put it bluntly.  This was one of the Capital Projects of the library that was eliminated as the Board "undedicated" $800,000 of its reserves in order to qualify for the $500,000 transfer to the Township for the 2011 budget.  But, knowing what needs to be done is information we did not have before, and whatever the timing, is information that has value in planning for the future.

Talking about the future is on the agenda in another way too.  I've written a 3-yr Technology and Strategic Plan for the Library.   Since we're starting from a position of great service and a commitment to using technology efficiently and effectively from an operational perspective, there are no great leaps and bounds in the plans.  The focus is to build on success, using mostly existing talent [staff], rethinking about the ways we currently do things and how we can shift - adjust - change, for better or more services. 

Some of my recommendations are to establish ad hoc advisory committees, involving you, the public, more, plus offer occasional public forums which explain the "deep" mysteries of librarianship [I'm really kidding here!], such as how we select materials for the collection, how we employ principles of child development in the programs we offer, tips for parents of teenagers who are puzzled by the types of books their kids want to read, and more.  Some of the plans are the result of what we've heard from you about what you want at the library - the biggest being able to register for programs via the internet - that's coming later this summer!

In the interest of time, this meeting probably won't be a full-out in-depth discussion of the plans.  That will come later this summer.  But I know the board will be looking at our financial prospects to move ahead as opposed to standing still, or dropping services.  The fact is, our fiscal situation for next year is particularily dire.  As it stands now, the library's revenue from the Township will drop nearly half a million dollars in 2012, and quite possibly flatline around that number for many years to come.

Also on this agenda is the final resolution that the Trustees must make to send to the NJ State Library seeking authorization to transfer $499,947 to the Township. 

The Agenda includes an opportunity to hear from you at the outset of the meeting and near the end, after the Trustees have made their decisions.  If you are interested in the future of  your library, please attend this meeting. 

Wednesday, June 15.  Main Library Community Room   7:00 p.m.

Susan O'Neal, Director 

To All

I've had requests for clarification and more detail on what is happening with the Main library parking lot improvement project.  For those of you w ho want just the abstract: 

No decision has been made on this capital project, but if it is done in 2012, it will be paid for by the library reserves and engineered by the Township.  The library has preliminary designs and will participate in the final design.

Main Library Parking Facts

For several years, I have been informing the library Board of Trustees that the growth in library usage was creating a shortage of parking.  My observations were that a shortage could pop up almost any day and time, and I recommended a parking capacity and usage study to be put into the Board's capital projects plan.  By last fall, it was at the top of the list of things that we needed to do. As with all of our capital projects, the library intended to use its reserves, not to ask the Township for funding.

In the Summer of 2010 I was authorized by the Board to send out RFP's, Requests for Proposal, to engineering firms for an assessment of a number of parking lot matters.  They included:

  • a study of parking lot use and capacity,

  • addition of more handicapped parking stalls,

  • safety of pedestrian crossing the lot,

  • the possibility of a drop off lane near the entry,

  • short term parking,

  • widening the parking stalls, and the

  • possibility of adding a drive up pick-up window.  

Multiple proposals were received, and two firms were selected to be interviewed by the full Board.  These firms represented the two lowest proposals in terms of cost.  They were DW Smith and Maser Consulting.  DW Smith had been the engineer who designed and carried out the water remediation project at the back corner of Main in 2009.  Mayor Scharfenberger was present for the DW Smith presentation, but had to leave before the Maser presentation.  The contract was awarded to Maser Consulting, in the approximate amount of $29,000.  [I'm writing this from home so I only remember the approximate amount]

Maser conducted a comprehensive traffic and use study in AUgust and September 2010; I met with them several times to discuss library needs, etc. and they made and revised plans for a few months.  In January, 2011, three proposals were reviewed by the Board at their meeting.  Frankly, this presentation did not go well.  The Maser team followed Mr. Settembrino's layout of his four point plan for library finance, which had everyone on the board stunned.  The main problem, though, was that additional parking in 2 of the 3 proposals would cover additional land with pavement and would generate storm management and environmental approvals that skyrocketed the costs.  I asked Maser for a 4th plan that would avoid these issues and costs and get the maximum parking out of it that we could.

The 4th plan was reviewed by me, Tony Mercantante, Ted Maloney and one of the Maser engineers.  Tony mentioned that including this project in the Town's 2012 Capital Improvements Projects might get the library better pricing.  This is the germination of the inclusion of this project in the Transfer of Library reserves to the Township settlement. At this time it was obvious that refinement of the last design, specifications for bidding, and the permissions and tests needed would require additional engineering work.  Maser asked if they should prepare a proposal for these next steps, and I said yes.

The proposal came in on May 13, several days before the library board meeting. We were all informed by Committeeman Settembrino that all further engineering work on on the library parking lot would be conducted by the Township Engineer of record, that is T&M.  The Board briefly discussed this at their meeting.

The next engineering work to be done will build on the Maser study, not duplicate it, as some have asserted incorrectly. 

The Middletown Library will be expected to use the services of T&M if the project is in the Township's CIP list for next year [and presuming T&M is the Township engineer in 2012]

The Library will be expected to pay all hard [construction] and soft [design, project supervision, permits, testing] that the Township engineer dictates is required. 

And ultimately, maybe this is all moot.  The library faces a huge cut in its operating budget next year, unless the TC is willing to provide more than the minimum funding level, and thus support the library at close to the 2011 level. A close analysis of our fiscal position is forthcoming.  It is my personal belief as the Administrator of the Library, that the library should not undertake debt financing for this project, but rather maintain it's prior practice of saving until enough cash reserves are available, and then proceeding.  This will be the Library Trustees' decision.  I believe the problem of not enough parking will continue to grow, as library business is on a significant upswing.  It is unclear to me whether the TC will provide permission for the library to proceed with any capital improvement project in the future unless it is totally under their control, except, of course, for the payment.

Lastly, I hope that in the length and detail of this explanation, it is not lost on the reader that the library's plans included addressing numerous safety issues, not just additional parking.  We DO need more handicapped parking, we DO need to eliminate the double parking in the lot for pickups and dropoffs, we DO need to add more safety measures for pedestrians who have to cross a traffic lane to enter the building!! 

We have nearly 2,000 visitors per day at the library.  Their safety is of keen importance to us.

Susan O'Neal, Library Director

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