Library without a CLUE?

In a move that probably should have been considered long ago, the Cumberland County Library is ditching the CLUES system in favor of a shared services, non-profit consortium based in Gloucester County called LOGIN.

The Cumberland County library system’s in-house, online borrowing system will be replaced by a service from a nonprofit consortium based in Gloucester County, freeholders said Monday.The money-saving initiative is forcing local and school libraries, which are wedded financially and emotionally to the current system, to decide quickly whether to follow the county or to go their own ways.

The county library has faced threats of the axe almost every fiscal year regardless of the political party in charge. It has always managed to squeak by, saving its own neck even if it lost county contributions towards operating expenses.

I am in favor of keeping the library open as long as it is financially feasible and the move doesn’t result in tax increases to the residents of this poorest county in the state.  I believe all members of the Freeholder board have done their best at exploring all options towards a workable solution. In times of fiscal duress the arts, culture and education are always the first targets of the axe-men. The short-sighted disregard of arts, education and culture is one way to ensure a slow slide into even further poverty, crime and blight.

That said, the powers that be at the library need to learn the art of compromise. You cannot go on with business as usual, claiming that since this is the way things have always been done, this is the way that things have to be done.

Since the CLUES system and LOGIN system share the computer host, migrating systems will be simplified, but not without an initial cost. However, it seems that once done, the county library will save between $50,000 – $100,000 annually. I would hedge my bets towards the lower figure – whenever one is presented with a range that wide, the upper is generally imaginary. But, $50K is nothing to scoff at.

Hopefully the Republican majority in the county has put the fear of God into enough people that they are truly looking for real fixes, and not relying on the easy moves such as mothballing the bookmobile, which was a really bad move.


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