New Jersey libraries, one of the victims of cuts in the new state budget, got some relief Wednesday through a $5.1 million federal stimulus grant which would expand their computer infrastructure and assistance for job seekers.
The money will be spread among the state's 365 public libraries over two years, New Jersey State Librarian Norma Blake said to Philly.com. State systems in Maine, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Montana also received stimulus grants.
"At a time when New Jersey's libraries are facing severe budget cuts, this timely investment will help libraries throughout the state continue providing important public services," said U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.).
The new state budget cuts funding for libraries by 43 percent from last year, but less than the 74 percent cut in the initial state budget proposal. Some branches still will have to reduce their hours or, in some cases, close, according to Blake. She said programs like the interlibrary book-loan service have been cut back, and subscriptions to electronic databases in areas such as genealogy have been eliminated.
"Overall our broadband is pretty good," Blake said, "but there are places in the state with no access to high-speed broadband."
The federal money is strictly for computers, Internet connectivity, and programs to help job seekers find work online.
— BOB HOLT, NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM