Gov. Phil Murphy announced Thursday $37 million will be appropriated from the New Jersey Library Construction Fund to provide grants for improvements to public libraries statewide.
The state legislature will approve the appropriation Monday, at which time lawmakers will pass legislation (A-6148/S-4221) Assemblyman Rob Karabinchak sponsored in the Assembly and Senator Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. and Assemblyman Sterley Stanley co-sponsored in their respective houses.
“We are proud to sponsor this legislation, which will provide millions in funding to our own district and help improve services across our state,” Diegnan, Karabinchak and Stanley, who represent New Jersey’s 18th Legislative District, said in a joint statement.
“Libraries are priceless assets to our communities with enrichment opportunities for children and adults alike. With offerings such as free internet access, a safe space for social activities, and a gateway to knowledge and culture, their role cannot be overstated.”
The Edison Township Free Public Library ($1.5 million), the Highland Park Public Library ($472,464) and the South River Public Library ($172,500) are among those receiving funds for upgrades.
“This is a great day for libraries,” Murphy said Thursday during a press conference outside the Long Branch Public Library.
“Investing in our libraries is just as critical as investing in our schools, in our cities and towns, or in our families. The library is where the concept of lifetime learning comes to fruition, where the spirit of community is celebrated, and where families come together. There are few purer family outings than a trip to the library.”
Under the bill, $27.5 million will be appropriated to the State Librarian for the purpose of providing large project grants for the construction, reconstruction, development, extension, improvement, and furnishing of New Jersey public libraries.
An additional $9.6 million will be appropriated to provide small project grants for barrier-free improvements and repairs of New Jersey public libraries.
The bill also appropriates $375,000 to the New Jersey Educational Facilities Authority for the administration of the “New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act.”
“The improvements,” Murphy said, “range from new technologies to keep our libraries relevant, to our library buildings themselves, to ensure that they stay open and accessible to all, among numerous other projects.”
In the event any of the large project grants appropriated under the bill are unable to proceed, resulting in monies being available for other projects, the bill stipulates those funds are to be appropriated to certain alternative large projects in an order specified in the bill.
“Let it not be forgotten that every dollar we as a state provide to support our libraries is a dollar that does not have to come from the pockets of property taxpayers,” said Murphy, noting the Library Construction Bond Act, which New Jersey voters approved in November 2017, authorized $125 million in state bonds to improve public library facilities.
County, municipal, joint and association public libraries statewide were eligible to submit a grant application for the program.