CAMDEN, N.J. - New Jersey's most impoverished city will close all three branches of its public library at year's end unless a rescue can be pulled off.
Camden's library board says the libraries won't be able to afford to stay open past Dec. 31 because of budget cuts from the city government. The city had its subsidy from the state cut.
The library board president says the library system, which opened in 1904, is preparing to donate, sell or destroy its collections, including 187,000 books.
Board president Martin McKernan says keeping the books around would pose a fire hazard.
Camden's library system is not the only one having financial problems. Fourteen libraries in Queens cut weekend services earlier this year.
As people looked for ways to weather the tough economic storm, many have found relief at their local library.
Paul LeClerc, president of the New York Public Library, said he started noticing a large increase in library attendance when the stock market went into its steep decline. And that attendance has continued to build. "We've got more people visiting us now than we've had in half a century," he said.
New York library customer Elle Byram said she's trying to avoid coffee shops where she'll end up spending money. She said the library "is spacious, it has free internet access. You meet cool people, but it's not really supposed to be a social place."
"What the down economy is doing is reminding people that these libraries are there for them," LeClerc said. "Lots of folks have been going around, I think naively in the past, saying 'do we still need libraries?' Well the proof in the pudding is now 'yes.' Libraries are as essential, if not more essential, now than they have been in the last fifty years.