Rocky Hill Establishes a New Task Force to Explore a Future for Mary Jacobs Library
By Rikki Massand | January 7, 2022
Rocky Hill created both a Borough Council Library Subcommittee – appointing council members Trey Delaney and Susan Bristol – and a new Mary Jacobs Memorial Library (MJML) Mayor’s Task Force at its reorganization meeting on Monday. The task force will include Mayor Bob Uhrik, Council Member Bristol, and former Borough Council President Irene Battaglia.
Mayor Uhrik called the library a “special place treasured by everyone, and which we are all hopeful for its enduring future.”
Previously, two council members served on the borough’s library subcommittee – Battaglia and former Council Member Connie Hallman. Both Battaglia’s and Hallman’s terms on council concluded on December 31.
In an interview after the January 3 meeting, Uhrik said the new subcommittee members — Delaney and Bristol — will “interface with the powers and entities to be.” This will include the Somerset County Library Commission (SCLS) and its administrator, Brian Auger. Delany is the designated liaison to follow all the county-level library deliberations.
According to Council Member Bristol, the draft Rocky Hill community vision presented by the former library subcommittee members, Battaglia and Hallman in 2021, has been deemed “ too aspirational” by SCLS. In addition, Bristol said the MJML Foundation Board of Trustees “is not yet ready to discuss the future (post-Phase II) library” with borough officials.
Mayor Uhrik explains: “The foundation has told Rocky Hill what they are going to do and the Somerset County Library System has its course of action for the immediate term, laid out in the two-year agreement. The next steps are completion of the new Montgomery municipal building and library, with Mary Jacobs set to close for the transition [this spring], and we’ll move on from there.”
Rocky Hill residents will use the new Montgomery library on the corner of Orchard Road and Route 206 once it is completed. It is expected to open in May or June.
An agreement with the Somerset County Library Commission calls for the Mary Jacobs Library to operate with a smaller footprint for the next couple of years. However, the foundation posted on its website that its building, located on Washington Street in Rocky Hill, is "much too large" for a smaller library. The nonprofit groups says it cannot afford to maintain the building.
The foundation has listed the building for sale for $3.5 million.
The mayor’s task force will explore the community’s interests for library services and potential ways of meeting demand in Rocky Hill. Its goal is to develop ideas, and perhaps plans, for the future of the Mary Jacobs Library.
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Mayor Uhrik says it’s important to note that the borough "is not the library’s owner" or the program/resource provider.
“The MJML Foundation has asked the borough to initiate and investigate what our community wants, and that is what we are doing. The task force will obtain Rocky Hill residents’ input, asking ‘hey, what do you think?'” he said.