State Librarian Says Regulations Almost Ready For 2017 Library Bond Act

Voters overwhelmingly approved borrowing the $125 million in November 2017, but since then libraries have been forced to wait for over a year for the state to release criteria and regulations spelling out how to apply for the funding.

TRENTON — The long wait for New Jersey libraries hoping to tap some of the $125 million voters authorized the state to borrow for library renovations and construction projects may be coming to an end soon.

Voters overwhelmingly approved borrowing the $125 million in November 2017, but since then libraries have been forced to wait for over a year for the state to release criteria and regulations spelling out how to apply for the funding.

More than 18 months have lapsed, but final regulations detailing the process for libraries to apply for the available state funding are anticipated to be completed later this month and should be posted in the New Jersey Register for public comments in “very early summer if not before then,” New Jersey State Librarian Mary Chute told lawmakers last week.

“Things are moving ahead,” Chute said Thursday during a hearing before the Senate Budget Committee. “This has been a very lengthy process. We’ve gone through multiple drafts.”

A 60-day public comment period is required, and the State Library will then have 30 days to respond to comments before the regulations are approved and applications from libraries can be accepted. Afterward, the state anticipates another three-month period for libraries to submit applications and a 30- to 60-day review period before projects would be submitted to the president of Thomas Edison State University, which oversees the State Library.

The New Jersey Legislature also will be required to vote on a list of approved projects.

In anticipation of the regulations being published, the State Library has posted a survey on its website,, seeking information about library projects that could be submitted for funding. Among the questions, the survey asks whether the project involves construction or acquisition of a new library building, repairs for a current building, a library addition, enhancement or technology upgrades, and how much the anticipated project will cost and its anticipated square footage.

“Whether you intend to submit a New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act application or not, this survey will help the state understand the level and nature of need for library construction in New Jersey,” the State Library message said. The information received will be used by staff to anticipate the number of potential grant applicants, scope and nature of projects, and the potential total dollar amount of resources required to address needs across the state.”

The message requested the surveys be submitted by May 17.

In addition to that project, Burlington County officials have indicated previously that the county system’s main branch library in Westampton could use additional meeting spaces and rooms where meetings, presentations and library programs could be held.

Reached Monday, Jonathan Chebra, Burlington County Library Commission chair, said all the county’s branch locations were being evaluated for potential improvement projects.

“This is an exciting time for the Library Commission and our professional staff as we evaluate all of our public spaces to ensure the Burlington County Library System continues to be responsive to the needs of our community today and in the future,” Chebra said. “The Library Construction Bond Act grant program is a unique opportunity for us to bring vital state funding back to Burlington County toward expanding residents’ access to library services, while also reducing the burden on county taxpayers.

“We know customers are using the library differently as they look to us for more learning opportunities as well as for safe collaborative spaces to gather professionally and socially. So, we are evaluating a number of our branch locations, including the main Burlington County Library in Westampton, as possible projects for consideration,” Chebra added.

The bond act voters approved specified that the state funds could be used to pay for up to 50 percent of a project’s cost. The remainder must be funded through a local match or through private fundraising.

The proposed regulations are expected to spell out additional details, such as whether grants would be capped in order to ensure more projects receive funding.

No preference will be made for projects where the local match is funded by private entities; however, the State Library has indicated a review panel will be created and look to spread funding throughout the state.

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