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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Feb 01, 2017

Big Year for Eastern Branch of Monmouth County Library

The Monmouth County Library Commission recently held its end-of-year meeting, and the branch manager of the Eastern Branch of the Monmouth County Library, Kim Avagliano, reported that the branch had more than half a million books circulated and close to 240,000 visitors in 2016.

Ms. Avagliano also pointed out that, on average, an additional 200 new patrons registered every month, bringing the total to 2,400 new patrons over the course of the year. “It has been a busy year. We have offered numerous programs every month, with movies, games, support groups, and book clubs meeting every week,” the head librarian continued. Those monthly programs included programs especially designed for senior citizens, book discussions, art exhibits and displays, and programs on business and career planning. The Eastern Branch also offers tax assistance through its cooperation with the AARP, live entertainment, and book sales on a regular basis. In addition, the Eastern Branch offers self-service printing, wireless printing, and an increased number of laptops for programs. Upgraded lines have also increased bandwidth, the annual report showed.

Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian Burry, liaison to the Library Commission, told the commission she is not surprised at the statistics presented by Ms. Avagliano and each of the other branch managers. “Our library system has grown and flourished through the years under excellent leadership and close communication with the Board of Freeholders. The library staff constantly listens to and meets the needs of its users, and the statistics prove the outstanding job it is doing.” Mrs. Burry noted that because of a door counter system , the library is able track the number of visitors, confirming the nearly one quarter of a million visits to one branch alone during the year as proof of the library’s integral place in the community. Ms. Avagliano told the commissioners they received between 600 and 700 visitors a day, totaling the approximately 240,000 who visited during 2016.

In addition to the programs, technology, clubs, and programs, the Eastern Branch’s meeting room hosts an average of three separate meetings each day, with nearly 1,000 attendees in any given month. The library sponsors between 40 and 50 programs on a monthly basis, as well as hosts 20 to 30 community or government meetings each month. More than 10,000 persons have attended these meetings over the course of the year, Ms. Avagliano stated.

One of last year’s program highlights was the highly popular Ye Olde Monmouth County Book Faire, at which 15 different New Jersey authors had displays, signed autographs, and gave brief talks on their works. The first Book Faire, which will likely be an annual event, included a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a documentary filmmaker, in addition to renowned and popular authors of both history and biography. Other programs that drew large crowds included Kevin Westley’s Irish Sing Along for St. Patrick’s Day, the Monmouth Civic Chorus in December, and Phil Bruschi’s program of songs introduced by Fred Astaire in the musical genre, as well as a photography exhibit and presentation recognizing the Centennial Year of the National Park Service.

The library celebrated New Jersey mysteries, myths, and lore in a four-part series that featured historians, reporters, and authors speaking on a variety of Jersey mysteries, from the Lindbergh kidnapping to the New Jersey Devil. The 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death was marked with a month-long tribute to the Bard and his sonnets, and included the works of Jersey Shore poets and the poetry of African Americans. And the library’s busy reference section responded to hundreds of inquiries, from obituary searches and technology to collection development and maintenance.

“The activity and diversity of programs offered throughout the library system shows we are meeting the needs and interest of Monmouth County residents,” said Renee Swartz, chairperson of the Library Commission. “That so many take advantage of the Eastern Branch and the other 13 branches is an indication our libraries are well situated for the population.” Ms. Swartz also noted it isn’t only the interior of the Eastern Branch that is attractive and inviting. “Credit goes to the Master Gardeners who consistently do a magnificent job of maintaining the very attractive islands at the entrance to the library and seasonally change live exhibits. They have also cleared old shrubs and added new trees on the west side of the building, keeping the Eastern Branch Library a most attractive and inviting resource in Monmouth County.”

Looking forward to 2017, Ms. Swartz said she is excited to plan the 50th anniversary of the Eastern Branch Area Reference Center, which will take place in 2018.  Studies and plans will also culminate in improved use of the library’s existing floor plan in order to meet its ever-rising demands for meeting and study space. Expansion of the Career Connections services and programs, as well as increased computer and technology programs for the general public, will keep the Eastern Branch of the Monmouth County Library the center of attention it currently is and will continue to be in the future.