EDISON – The Clara Barton Branch Public Library will remain open at 141 Hoover Ave.
In a letter addressed to “Clara Barton Neighbors” on Jan. 19, Mayor Sam Joshi said after “careful consideration, I am announcing that my administration will not pursue relocating the Clara Barton Branch Library.”
“To enhance visibility and increase resident usage of the library, we will be initiating publicity efforts to elevate awareness of the library’s offerings, identifying opportunities for family-oriented activities and events, installing improved signage, and exploring opportunities for technological upgrades,” Joshi said in the letter.
On Jan. 12, Joshi stood in front of a standing room only crowd at the Clara Barton First Aid Squad to have an “open, fair and honest” dialogue with the Clara Barton community on his administration’s vision for the library location.
He had called the meeting after residents voiced their concerns about the move at recent Township Council meetings, a Library Board meeting, and after members of the community held a protest in front of the library on Jan. 3.
In September 2022, Joshi had announced plans to transform the Clara Barton Library into a Special Needs Programming and Recreation Center and move the library down the street to a retail space at the intersection of Hoover and Amboy avenues.
Joshi said he had announced his administration’s vision through a press release they had sent out to the public and had said he had heard positive feedback from the special needs community but didn’t hear any pushback until recently.
The mayor was met with a crowd at the meeting, which also included members of the Edison Township Council and members of the Edison Board of Education, who were passionate about wanting to keep the Clara Barton Branch Public Library where it is on Hoover Avenue.
The crowd voiced concerns about moving the library essentially into a smaller space and parents and seniors voiced safety concerns of the location citing a busier intersection. The crowd also voiced their frustration on learning about the move just recently either through a community Facebook page or in the local newspaper.
At the meeting, Joshi explained that his administration looked at geographical and circulation data of the three public libraries. Amongst circulation data, Clara Barton library numbers were the lowest.
In 2022, the main library on Plainfield Avenue saw circulation numbers at 196,494, the North Edison Library on Grove Avenue saw circulation numbers at 260,798 and Clara Barton circulation numbers were at 33,581.
Community members noted it was important to also look at population size of the library location areas when looking at circulation data.
“The importance of libraries in our neighborhoods cannot be overstated, and I truly understand how essential it is that all community members have fair and equal access to library facilities,” Joshi said in the letter. “My administration has devoted more funds towards our libraries than any prior administration, and we will continue to provide strong support to these facilities in the critical role they serve.”
Joshi also noted his administration will also continue to pursue the development of a Special Needs Programming and Recreation Center at a different location to serve as a safe and accessible space for providing supplemental programs to families in our community with children who have special needs.
Resident Sue Malone-Barber said the community thanks the mayor and “are very grateful that he heard the community and arrived at what we believe is the right decision.”