GLEN RIDGE, NJ — Seventy-seven public libraries throughout Essex, Hudson, Bergen and Passaic counties comprise the Bergen County Cooperative Library System. What this permits is the opportunity for a library cardholder from any one of these libraries, usually the person’s hometown library, to select from a collection of more than 5.8 million books, DVDs, CDs — once in awhile VHSs — and more. The public libraries in Glen Ridge and Bloomfield are part of this system.
The Glen Ridge Public Library joined the BCCL system in 2001. According to the library director, Jennifer Breuer, last year, it cost the library $35,000 to be a BCCL member. The current library budget is $600,000.
On a monthly basis, the library borrows about 1,700 items and sends out 2,000.
“Media and DVDs go out the most,” Breuer said. “We see a tremendous amount of media. We have no VHS. We don’t carry it anymore.”
She said the library does lend out non-traditional items including museum passes, a camera and a “killawatt” which, when plugged in, will monitor an electrical outlet for current usage.
Breuer said the formats of items that can be borrowed have to be supported by the membership of BCCL.
“It’s a democratic system,” she said. “We represent one vote of 77.”
Items leave the library in buckets, according to Breuer. She said about five to six buckets go out each day with about 100 items.
“About the same comes in,” she said.
As for the BCCL system, Breuer said it is the best idea, ever.
“It’s the ultimate resource for sharing and its cost-effective,” she said.
The Bloomfield Public Library became a BCCL member in 2008. According to Adele Puccio, the director of the library, the fee for this year to be a member was $49,000. She said the amount has stayed pretty much constant.
“The fee is to run the computer system and the checkout,” Puccio said. “It gives a person access to databases, e-music, e-books, movies and music via Hoopla.”
Hoopla is a digital service accessible through local libraries.
BCCL deliveries arrive at 8 a.m. Monday to Friday. A van carrying boxes of the items will drive right up to the front door of the library. Puccio said a month’s worth of deliveries is about 3,000 items. These are being sought by Bloomfield patrons or they are being returned to Bloomfield. The number of packages coming in or going out is about 70 to 75, Puccio said. A package often contains more than one book and may include returns.
“Media and music go out the most,” she said. “We still get VHS requests, which is bizarre.”
She said the Bloomfield Public Library borrows more than it lends.
“We would prefer to be a big lender,” she said.
Borrowing more than lending shows that a library does not have much of a collection, she said.
“Our budget has gone down each year since 2008,” she said.
She said the 2016 budget was $1,415,000.
“There’s not much damage with BCCL shipments,” she said. “Everything gets wrapped in envelopes.”
She said a private carrier does statewide shipments.
Before BCCL, Puccio said the library used a system called VUVIS.
“It was just between us and Montclair,” she said.
Puccio has been the Bloomfield Public Library director since September 2013. From May 2005, to February 2010, she was the supervisor of reference for the library before departing for several years.
As for the move to BCCL, Bloomfield had a seamless transition, Puccio said. All library records had to be collected and put into the BCCL system.
“It took a while for all the records to go through,” she said. “They did offer training to everyone.”
But not everything in the Bloomfield Public Library can be viewed through the 77-library BCCL catalogue.
“Items we cannot catalogue aren’t in the system,” Puccio said. “We have a collection of cake pans. We lend them out. You don’t see them in the system. It’s really an interesting set of a collection. Most of them are mine. I had to get them out of my house.”
Puccio said they can be viewed on the webpage for the library.
Most BCCL patrons are local to communities near Bloomfield, she said, but one person using the Bloomfield library has a New Milford library card. She said, for Bloomfield cardholders, the Nutley and Montclair public libraries are the most popular.
“Nutley has tapered off but Montclair is consistent,” she said.
She said once a book that has been borrowed from another library is returned, it can take a week for the book to get back to its home library.
In a back room of the Bloomfield library is shelving, each with the name of one of the 77 BCCL libraries taped to it. When a book comes in, it is shelved there. She said all Bloomfield items that are borrowed via BCCL come back. Losses of Bloomfield items happen when a Bloomfield cardholder loses something, or it is stolen.
“It’s a lot of work,” Puccio said of the BCCL system, “but worth it.”