Mary Jacobs Library Is Safe, for Years to Come
By Barbara A. Preston and Rikki N. Massand l July 10, 2020
For several years, Rocky Hill residents have been distraught by the possibility of losing Mary Jacobs Library. A new agreement provides the opportunity for continued library services for greater Montgomery and Rocky Hill.
The agreement, recently approved by the Somerset County Library Commission, Montgomery Township Committee, Rocky Hill Borough Council, and the Mary Jacobs Library Foundation, has been in the works for the past six months. The below summary was provided by Rocky Hill Borough Council President Irene Battaglia.
Library services will continue at the Mary Jacobs Library branch in their full and current capacity while the new library in Montgomery is constructed (this period is referred to as Phase I, lasting approximately two years).
During Phase I, Montgomery agrees to contribute $120,000 annually to a fund that will be used to maintain the library for the duration of the agreement, and Rocky Hill Borough agrees to pay $10,000 annually.
Somerset County will continue to provide smaller-scale library services in Rocky Hill after the new library is built (Phase II - also approximately two years).
During Phase II, Montgomery will no longer contribute to the operational fund for the library in Rocky Hill, and Rocky Hill will continue to contribute $10,000 annually.
The Rocky Hill library space will be smaller (proposed 1/3 of its current size) during Phase II.
Specific Phase II library services in Rocky Hill will include:
One full time equivalent staff member, working 35 to 37.5 hours per week at the Rocky Hill branch.
Physical materials in the branch, including books, newspapers, and magazines.
Programming for children and adults.
Pickup and delivery of materials and holds.
"This agreement is beneficial to all parties," Battaglia said at a recent Rocky Hill Borough Council meeting. "It allows the county to provide continuous library services to Montgomery and Rocky Hill residents without moving locations or having a gap in services. And, significantly to us in Rocky Hill Borough, it supports the continuation of longer-term library services in Rocky Hill."
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"I believe this agreement will be beneficial to the residents of Rocky Hill," Battaglia added. "It represents an achievement of the goals of all four parties involved. The library subcommittee would like to thank the many representatives of the three other parties involved for their hard work in assembling this agreement."
"We’d like to thank Freeholder Melonie Marano for her support of the agreement and for her support of continued library services in Rocky Hill," she said. "I’d also like to personally thank Connie Hallman, my counterpart on the library subcommittee, and I'd like to thank all of you on Borough Council for your review of this agreement."
The multi-year agreement will ensure adequate funding to allow for the extension of library services within the existing Mary Jacobs Memorial Library branch, located at 64 Washington Street in Rocky Hill. This agreement extends services beyond the previous December 2020 contract end date.
"I am so delighted to retain library services for the residents of Rocky Hill and Montgomery,” said Freeholder Melonie Marano. “Working together collaboratively as a team, we all had the same goal in mind and achieved a successful outcome with each parties’ best interests in mind."
Montgomery Township had announced that they would build a new library in conjunction with a planned new municipal complex on Route 206. At the same time, the Somerset County Library System announced that after the new Montgomery library opened, it would no longer provide library services at the Mary Jacobs Library branch in Rocky Hill.
In December 2020, the current agreement between the Mary Jacobs Memorial Library Foundation and the SCLS for library maintenance and operations would have expired, and the new library in Montgomery Township would not be ready for use.
The Somerset County Library System wished to extend the maintenance agreement with the Mary Jacobs Foundation until the time that the new Montgomery Library is ready. However, rather than extend the agreement that has been in place for several years, the four major parties involved (Rocky Hill, Montgomery Township, SCLS, MJMLF) together devised a different agreement that is before us today.
Montgomery Township committee member Devra Keenan said: "We were facing a deadline this coming December when library operations would have ceased at the Mary Jacobs Library. Through the hard work and commitment of all parties involved, we have an agreement that ensures continued library services for the foreseeable future. I am grateful for Freeholder Melanie Marano’s commitment to solving this problem, ensuring that the residents of Montgomery Township and Rocky Hill can depend on having a library to serve them especially during a difficult period for our community. Libraries play many critical roles that will be important during our recovery from the COVID health crisis, including support for job searches, for finding ideas and inspiration, and for connecting with each other. Mary Jacobs has been a beloved institution for decades, and so it remains.”
Connie Hallman, Rocky Hill borough council member, added: “As the town most directly affected by this agreement, we are very pleased. The Mary Jacobs Library has been at the heart of Rocky Hill, nurtured and treasured by our residents for 46 years. This is the first step toward ensuring that we protect this valuable resource.”
Anthony T. Suriano, Chairman of the Somerset County Library Commission, said:
“The Somerset County Library Commission is grateful for the Mary Jacobs Foundation’s willingness to assist the commission in providing an uninterrupted and laudable library service to the shared communities of Rocky Hill and Montgomery. The noteworthy agreement reached is a product of demonstrated collaboration and goodwill among the designated few from each of the aforementioned entities, conducted for the benefit of the many whom we serve.”
Cary Dawson, president of the Mary Jacobs Library Foundation, said: “The Mary Jacobs Memorial Library Foundation, knowing how important the library is to the community, is pleased and proud to have reached this agreement with Somerset County Library Commission, Montgomery Township, and the Borough of Rocky Hill. This agreement is the result of cooperation from all parties and ensures library service will continue in the Foundation’s building in Rocky Hill for several more years to come.”