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A public library debuts, inside the university library at Rutgers-Camden

Senior librarian Nasreen Ahmed, right, and senior library assistant Carissa Schanely prepare to assist patrons at the reception desk.
The multipurpose room.
Local resident Ishmeil Muhammed enjoys a lull in activity at the library to get some work down at one of the public access computers.

Anyone looking to assess the prospects for town/gown cooperation, and the potential for partnerships between academic and public libraries, would be well-advised to plan a field trip to the Paul Robeson Library, on the Rutgers-Camden campus.

On April 4th the Camden County Library at Rutgers officially opened, in the basement of the Paul Robeson Library. The library features a state-of-the-art computer classroom, a multi-purpose room equipped for special events, a dozen public-access computers, and a small staff of trained librarians eager to assist patrons.

The new public library inside the Robeson Library is a result of the Rutgers-Camden's sense of commitment to the area and the county library system's effort to handle a challenging economy, an effort which recently led it to take over library services for the city of Camden.

Rutgers-Camden Chancellor Wendell Pritchett has made service to the local community a signature issue and encouraged administrators, faculty, and staff to identify local needs that the campus can help address. Meanwhile, within the past year the Camden County Library system consolidated library services in the city of Camden due to budget cuts.

With the encouragement of the Camden County Board of Freeholders, the county library commission met with the leadership of the Rutgers-Camden campus in the spring of 2011, to explore the possibility of opening a library branch on campus. The Paul Robeson Library agreed to clear space on its lower level for the library branch and a partnership was forged in the summer of 2011. After a few months of expedited activity to shift the Robeson Library collections and open the space, construction began in the winter to create the framework of the new branch.

Paul Robeson Library Director Gary Golden envisions many benefits to the new public library branch. He notes that a number of schools within a four block radius, serving roughly 1,200 Pre-K to 12th grade students collectively, now have access to a fully equipped library that enhance their studies. The branch library can direct visitors seeking assistance with advanced research projects to consult with the librarians and the college-level resources of the Robeson Library, a helpful and convenient option not available to most public libraries.

Golden also points out that the presence of the branch library is an obvious boon to the Rutgers-Camden Childhood Studies Program and thus presents numerous partnership opportunities, such as an ideal site for reading acquisition research.

For the staff at the Camden County Library at Rutgers, the new location has already proven beneficial with local residents, area students, and Rutgers staff dropping by to make use of the library's collections and families visiting over the weekends. The library has developed plans to hold a summer reading program starting in late June and to host a series of computer classes in the weeks ahead.

For more information on the Camden County Library at Rutgers, see:

Posted June 7, 2012; updated June 8, 2012 (2nd image)