The Mary Jacobs Memorial Library Foundation is dedicated to keeping its supporters updated about what is happening with the foundation’s transition. Here is our latest update:
The board has been working tirelessly to further discuss and decide upon next steps for the foundation. Currently, we are in discussions with Montgomery Township (Committee members) and Rocky Hill (Borough Council members) about the feasibility of creating a joint municipal library. This concept was brought to us by Montgomery leaders in early 2019.
(See proposal on this page by Montgomery leaders: Deputy Mayor Catherine Gural and Township Committeeman Marvin Schuldiner.)
A project like this is multi-layered and complex, but also very exciting. Creating a joint municipal library would mean that both Montgomery and Rocky Hill would exit their current relationship with Somerset County Library System (SCLS) and, together, would take control of a joint library.
The details of such a project are far from being finalized, but initial plans call for two branches: a traditional main branch at the new Montgomery municipal building and a smaller, non-traditional Mary Jacobs branch located in Rocky Hill. This move would allow the communities to have more control over the content and programming at the library so as to meet the needs of the community better than the current “one size fits all” approach that SCLS currently employs.
Other benefits, such as Sunday hours, which are not currently available under SCLS, and book return drop-off locations around Montgomery, would be planned.
A joint municipal library would allow a non-traditional MJML branch to exist in Rocky Hill, albeit in a smaller facility. This is something SCLS has given us a ‘hard no’ on being possible if we remain within the system.
Of course, residents of both towns could use both branches. The people of Montgomery and Rocky Hill would have input into the amenities that such a branch could offer; for example, a maker space, podcasting / recording / soundproof booths, tutoring space, a small collection and reading room.
This is an exciting opportunity to create something new and keep a community center in Rocky Hill.
SCLS currently operates our single branch with a $2.25 million-dollar budget. The creation of a joint municipal library would create a projected cost savings of about $1.1 million per year to Montgomery and Rocky Hill taxpayers for two branches.
In addition, savings would be realized with the continuation of the library at the current Mary Jacobs location until the new Montgomery municipal building and library is completed, which would save Montgomery from having to rent temporary library space, estimated at $500,000 per year, and save the expense of having to move the library twice. This could potentially result in more than $1 million in savings.
Moving forward with this project is complex and has several steps. By state law, the two towns need to formally agree, the project must be approved through an ordinance (with public hearing), and then it must be approved through public referendum. Departure from SCLS would be by governing body resolution.
The MJML Foundation trustees strongly support this project as a way to continue the legacy of Mary and Harold Jacobs, retain a physical library presence in Rocky Hill, to have greater control of the offerings at the library, and to save money.
The trustees request that supporters let their municipal officials know that they support the joint municipal library plan.
In the meantime, while we continue to work with both towns to move forward with this plan, the MJML library building in Rocky Hill will no longer be under a lease and operating agreement with SCLS as of December 30, 2020, and, as of right now, the library will continue to operate in its current location only until that date.
The foundation is not in a financial position to maintain the building and wants to keep options open as to the future use of the property. As a result, the building will be put up for sale in the near future. The foundation will not be fund raising during this time.
Updates and opportunities to join the conversation are forthcoming. Thank you, as always, for supporting the MJML Foundation. ■
MJML Foundation president Cary Dawson submitted this letter on behalf of the trustees by e-mail to The Montgomery News on December 18. The letter was signed by the following trustees: Crissy Blanos, Cary Dawson, Frank Derby, Michael DeCicco, Brenda Fallon, Thomas Ix, Michelle Jacob, Philip Kartsonis, and Wendy Rayner.