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Camden County Library System outpost to open in Paul Robeson Library

Camden County Freeholder Ian Leonard
Camden County Freeholder Ian Leonard speaks on the Rutgers–Camden campus beside the Paul Robeson Library on Wednesday June 1st. An area of the library will become an outpost of the Camden County Library system, and will deliver children's services, public computer access, and other services to the citizens of Camden County.

In an innovative move that could serve as a model for urban areas nationwide, Camden County Library Commission and Rutgers–Camden have come together to create an outpost branch of the County library in downtown Camden. The 5,000-square-foot space on the lower level of the Paul Robeson Library at Rutgers–Camden is being renovated for maximum efficiency and access.

The renovated area also will include space for the Rutgers Future Scholars Program and the Rutgers College Access Center. The co-location of these programs with the county library seeks to provide Camden families with opportunities to utilize Rutgers college prep programs.

"This branch will mean so much to city residents," said Mayor Dana L. Redd. "We are so happy that through our efforts, the facilitation efforts of the County, the expertise of the Library System and the commitment of Rutgers University we will have such a resource available for use downtown."

The city of Camden is the latest municipality to join the County Library System, which now includes 27 of 37 municipalities in the county. Each municipality pays for its membership through a dedicated tax from its residents. The tax rate is the same for every municipality.

"Libraries hold a special role at the heart of their communities, whether on a university campus or in our hometowns. They are places for learning, centers for research, and focal points for community growth," said Wendell Pritchett, Chancellor of the Rutgers-Camden Campus. "Here at Rutgers the Paul Robeson Library serves in all of these capacities, and is a critical part of our campus life. As befits the State University of New Jersey, Rutgers is proud to partner with the Camden County Library Commission to put underutilized space in our Robeson Library to work on behalf of the citizens of Camden."

Linda Devlin, Director of the Camden County Library System, who helped create the vision for this unique branch, explained her enthusiasm. "I am excited about the chance to work with Rutgers University and create a new library branch in Camden. A partnership with Rutgers will result in innovative programming and services that will serve as a national model for success," Devlin said. "Working together with Rutgers will allow us to share our resources, talents, and facilities while strengthening our ability to meet these goals and serve the residents of Camden."

"This is a unique opportunity for residents, the County Library System and for Rutgers," said Freeholder Ian K. Leonard, liaison to the Camden County Library. "With this and the newly upgraded Ferry Avenue branch, the residents of Camden City --from kids to students and adults, will be well- served with state-of-the art computers and search capabilities, including job search, an increased range of books, a computerized checkout system, literacy and reading programs, events for kids and teens and much more," he said.

The Rutgers Future Scholars program is a University-wide initiative aimed at providing academically high-achieving students opportunities for educational growth, social development, and personal enrichment in an effort to prepare them for acceptance into higher education upon high school graduation and success once they enter. Currently there are 200 Rutgers Future Scholars on the Rutgers–Camden Campus, in grades 7-10, from the Camden City Public Schools and the LEAP Academy University Charter School.

The downtown library branch will serve as a center for college access, providing resources, materials and programming for Camden city youth and their families to help them with the college admission process. Students will be able to take SAT preparation classes, learn about financial aid, and receive individual support from Rutgers students who will serve as mentors as they go through the college admission process.

"Rutgers will also sponsor literacy and arts enrichment activities. Working with faculty, staff and students (undergraduate and graduate) from the various centers and departments on the Rutgers–Camden Campus (such as the Center for Children and Childhood Studies, the Center for the Arts, and the academic Department of Childhood Studies) activities will be planned to increase early literacy and promote family literacy activities: storytelling; children and young adult author visits and book readings; citywide youth poetry/spoken word programs; and arts enrichment activities" said Nyeema Watson, administrative director for the Rutgers–Camden Center for Children and Childhood Studies.

In addition to the renovation of the lower level of the Robeson Library, Rutgers-Camden is also embarking on a comprehensive overhaul of the central campus library, which was built in 1958. This summer, the University will conclude renovations with a state-of-the-art computer laboratory which, together with all the other innovations, will have updated the facility for the demands of a 21st century research university.

Plans for the branch library renovations are still under review, with more detail to come over the next couple of months.

Posted June 1, 2011