Bloomfield Library releases three-year plan

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
Library proposals could mean more responsibilities for staff members. Above, Lisa Cohn, one of three research librarians.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The board of trustees for the Bloomfield Public Library has issued a strategic plan outlining proposed initiatives over the next three years. It is all-encompassing and available on the BPL website and offers as its mission statement a goal to make the library the information center for the township. To assist with funding for the undertaking, the Bloomfield Public Library Foundation was established in January 2018, according to a township press release.

In a interview at the library earlier this week, BPL Director Holly Belli said much has been proposed, but the library will be unable to increase its staff.

“Programming and outreach will require more from the staff,” she said. “There was a bit of a reorganization. A librarian, Lisa Hoffman, was promoted to adult services to increase outreach to populations and groups we can serve better.”

Hispanic residents will be a focus. According to the strategic plan, at least 30 percent of Bloomfield residents are Hispanic, a quarter being foreign-born. Belli said the website is being improved with more information in Spanish. Two part-time employees at the library are Spanish-speaking.

Belli called the service the Bloomfield Children’s Library provides “fantastic” with its various programs. The library will continue its effort to attract children and getting them excited about reading. When parents hear about an activity at the children’s library, they bring in their children. But without the kids, parents and adults in general, are more difficult to attract.
“There’s so many things competing for the attention of an adult,” Belli said.

But she observed that there are not many places left in society where a person can come in for free.
“With other places, you have to subscribe or adhere to a certain belief system,” she said, “such as churches and clubs.”
Belli said she was just making a general statement.

“But a library doesn’t care how you identify,” she said. “Everything is free and open. It’s very rare a fee is charged.”
But getting an adult into the library is a hit-or-miss situation.

“The library is working on making sure we provide to the Bloomfield adults,” she said. “What’s going to get an adult into the library on a Saturday afternoon or an evening?”

She recognizes that an adult may want the library as a quiet place for reading; a music performance may not attract them.
“We’re lucky,” she said. “We have a theater. But libraries are more than just book depositories.”

Outreach and availability of materials is the key to membership, according to Belli. For the last several years, Bloomfield elementary schools have been visiting. This gets BPL cards into the children’s hands. It is a priority and for a child, a library card requires parental permission. Teachers also pick the application forms for their students and bring them to school.

“Now most of the kids in town have library cards,” Belli said. “And we try to get kids here at the end of the school year for the summer reading program.”

The BPL was also the first library in the state to offer the Special Olympics and has also applied for grants to benefit children on the autism spectrum. Belli said children on the autism spectrum require a different kind of storytime.

“They don’t like the noise,” she said of children on the autism spectrum. “The program is structured so that autism spectrum children get more out of it.”

Grant funding for this program will allow library personnel to be trained.
Belli began her tenure with the BLP in September 2013 at the children’s library. She came to the adult library in September 2016.
“The thrust of strategic planning is to make everyone welcomed no matter who they are,” she said, “and getting what they need.”