What is the NJ Library Construction Bond Act?
The New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act authorizes issuance of $125,000,000 in general obligation bonds to finance capital projects at public libraries; it appropriates $5,000. Under the bill, for any approved project financed by bond proceeds, the grant award will support 50% of the cost of the project, and the appropriate local governing entity in the area served by the public library will support 50% of the cost of the project. The bill has bipartisan support in both the State Assembly and the State Senate.
Many public libraries in New Jersey are not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition, many are trying to serve their communities from outmoded facilities. Passage of The New Jersey Construction Bond Act would enable libraries to update their current facilities or to build new ones, with infrastructures that support the services that public libraries offer to their communities.
Why Is It Needed?
Library buildings need to meet the evolving demands of our communities.
Public libraries provide educational opportunities for all ages in the community from pre-school children to senior citizens. A wide variety of programs and services, including books, technology and classes, are offered and expected in today’s community-centered libraries. Last year, over 44 million visits were made to New Jersey’s public libraries.
The New Jersey Library Association conducted a Capital Improvement Survey in late 2014 to assess facility conditions and construction needs of New Jersey’s public libraries. We found many deficiencies:
- 50% of buildings were not ADA compliant, needing ramps, elevators or restroom upgrades
- 60% are in need of additional square footage
- 49% need electrical upgrades
- 78% are in need of interior painting or re-carpeting
- 74% are in need of new furnishings
- 64% need additional service points such a self-service kiosks
- Technology was frequently cited as insufficient for user needs
The survey demonstrated the strong need among New Jersey public libraries for capital funding to meet the growing demand for physical improvements and technological updates.
It has been over fifteen years since the passage of the last Public Library Construction Bond Act. That bill was extremely successful with 68 communities constructing or renovating library facilities. Library services were transformed for many communities with the addition of new computer facilities, upgraded teen centers and large community meeting rooms.
We find the need today is greater than ever. Unfortunately, with the difficulties of local budgets, few libraries receive regular capital appropriations. This bill is desperately needed by many communities.
Passage of this bill will be an investment in the future of many New Jersey communities. With matching fund requirements this program would provide a tremendous positive economic impact for our state, creating jobs for many local companies throughout New Jersey.
Libraries build communities! This funding will help transform many of our libraries into vibrant community education centers for all ages.