(TRENTON) – Taking action to support the growth of libraries across New Jersey, the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday advanced legislation to appropriate $87,444,690 from the New Jersey Library Construction Fund to provide project grants to develop and improve public libraries.
The measure (A-4942) is sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Camden, Burlington), Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (D-Bergen, Hudson) and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex, Morris).
“It wasn’t long ago that libraries were the only place you could find answers to any question you could imagine. Now that many of us have access to unlimited information at the touch of a button, libraries have become about so much more than just books,” said Greenwald. “With a variety of enrichment classes, children’s programs and access to high speed internet, libraries have become community spaces for all to enjoy. Sadly, library funding has remained flat in recent years, leaving many with little resources to make improvements. These grants will go a long way in helping local libraries reach more people in their communities.”
The bond issuance through the Library Construction Bond Act was approved by New Jersey voters in November 2017. It authorized $125 million in state bonds to fund critical improvements to New Jersey public libraries. Currently, $87,444,690 is available for distribution, and another round of awards is planned for the first quarter of 2021.
More than 129 project applications were reviewed by a committee of experts from relevant State agencies, including the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Community Affairs, the New Jersey Treasury, and the New Jersey Historical Commission, among others. The committee has recommended 38 public libraries in New Jersey to receive grant awards, which must be approved by the Legislature as reflected in this bill.
“Libraries have something for everyone. For children, they open doors to the magical world of books and encourage a lifelong love of reading. For adults, they provide access to invaluable education, job training and personal development resources,” said Jimenez. “Above all, libraries help keep us connected. In these uncertain times, their role has never been more important.”
“During the pandemic, we’ve seen libraries across New Jersey find innovative ways to expand their reach, from curbside service to home delivery to Zoom presentations,” said Jasey. “It’s forward thinking like this that makes libraries so vital to our communities. This support will help our public libraries keep growing and innovating.”
Additionally, as part of the bill’s appropriation, $625,000 will go to the New Jersey Educational Facilities Authority and $335,650 will go the State Librarian to administer the grants.
The measure now goes to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.