Source: The Teaneck Suburbanite, Wednesday, April 17, 1985 

Area Libraries Join Computer Network

By Tricia Duffy, Staff Writer

A group of public libraries in the county are pooling their resources to buy a sophisticated computer system which proponents contend will offer both better service and eventual cost savings.

Under the plan, a mainframe computer - estimated to cost in excess of $500,000 - will be purchased by the Ridgewood Public Library and installed there. Remote terminals are to be placed at other libraries, which will also pay a proportionate share of Ridgewood's costs.

As envisioned, the system will provide a centralized inventory of materials available at the various member libraries, as well as help librarians keep records on reserved books and periodicals, overdue materials and acquisition lists.

As many as 18 Bergen County commmunities are considering ordinances to join the coalition. Six minucipalities, including Teaneck and Englewood, have already set aside funds for the project.

Libraries joining the network will pay $13,200 per terminal, part of which will go toward the cost of the Ridgewood mainframe. Officials there have adopted a $554,400 bond ordinance for the purchase. Other local costs will include staffing to man the system and telecommunication hook-ups with the mainframe.

In Teaneck, library trustees are estimating that, while the system will involve one-time start-up costs that exceed current budgets for the operations to be handled by the system, over time a savings will be realized. According to a 1983 analysis compiled by the board, the township will save $128,479 by 1991. The savings incorporates staff reductions, however.

Library officials -- both in Teaneck and elsewhere -- warned, however, that the figures were estimated. Actual costs will be dependent upon the actual price of the mainframe unit and the number of municipalities which join the network.

According to City Manager William Sommers, Englewood has set aside $52,800 for terminals. He noted that the sum represented half the proceeds realized by the library for the sale by the city of the Engle Street School.

Sommers also reported that a bill pending in the state legislature could provide funds to help reduce the costs of the system in future years.

Two years ago, the Teaneck likewise allocated $52,800, for four terminals. The money for the terminals is to be drawn from a surplus of state funding originally earmarked for salaries, according to a municipal official.

According to Hilda Lipkin, the director of the Teaneck Library, the consortium is a sub-group of the Bergen County Co-operative Library. The planned system will initially have the capacity to handle 18 libraries and will be expandable.

"The (Ridgewood) Village council was persuaded by the library board that a computer circulation system in a cooperative network would be a very good thing for libraries to have," Mrs. Lipkin added. " They were willing to bond for the purchase of the main frame and each town can participate by pruchasing their own terminals and by contributing to the purchase of that main frame."

The planned system also will have the capacity to provide information on the past borrowing history of the library users, Mrs. Lipkin noted. The material can be used to alert librarians to any past infraction of library rules and will indicate if the person is a chronic abuser.

Concern about the increased incidence of abuse moved the Teaneck council recently to adopt an ordinance authorizing the issuance of summonses to offenders. The citations are to be answerable in municipal court.

COST

Mrs. Anderson of Englewood was asked whether the cost of the system may be too high in relating the benefits to be derived.

"No," she maintained. "The $500,000 estimate includes hardware, software, devices and other incidentals such as construction. There must be a special floor installed to support the mainframe and a climate control," the director stated.

A spokesperson for the Cresskill library did not agree. She maintained that proposed charges were too much for the meager budgets of smaller libraries.

"You're talking about Ridgewood, Teaneck, Englewood -- those are the largest library systems," she said, "Perhaps they can justify the cost. But here we have a small library, and the cost for us is high."

Teaneck's township manager, Werner Schmid, said that while $500,000 was "a lot of money... it really depends on how it is used. The system is not just for the use of one library, it is designed for joint use," he maintained.

In Teaneck, the library board and its unionized workers are currently embroiled in a contract dispute over wages. With that as a backdrop, one municipal official there said privately, the prospect of substantial expenditures of a computer system that stands to displace some staff members is "not a popular subject."

Englewood officials maintained that no staff reductions were anticipated as result of the installation of the system.

"We are not projecting any staff reductions here." Mrs. Anderson said. "What we are projecting is an increase in service and an increase in the protection of materials. Each individual library makes it's own decision. In Englewood the reduction of staff is not one of our objectives."

Back to The Library History Home Page

Back to Township History Main Page