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Plainfield library director's quests for outreach,
excellence earn him state award

Courier News • By LAURIE LEVOY • STAFF WRITER • May 27, 2010

PLAINFIELD — For many of the 16 years that Joseph Da Rold has shepherded Plainfield Public Library as its director, both its programming and his leadership have earned recognition.

But a few weeks ago, Da Rold said he earned what he calls his lifetime achievement award — the New Jersey Library Association's 2010 New Jersey Librarian of the Year Award.

Librarian of the Year 2010
Union County Freeholders Bette Jane Kowalski and Alexander Mirabella (R) present a resolution to Plainfield Librarian Joseph Da Rold congratulating him for being chosen as the 2010 Librarian of the Year by the New Jersey Library Association. (Photo by Jim Lowney/County of Union) **

Da Rold, 67, remains dedicated to what is his hometown library, too, and continues to percolate ideas about the institution's future.
Describing himself as project-oriented, Da Rold's current mission is to complete the facility's Children's Library.

"And keeping us afloat is a major priority, as we've lost $53,000 in state aid and in funding for our databases," Da Rold noted.
With the library's circulation surging from 80,000 in 2007 to more than 100,000 in in 2009, maintaining and recruiting financial support is vital.

"I'm fighting to get it restored," Da Rold said.

Getting difficult tasks done was one of the reasons cited for Da Rold's recent honor.

"Joe has strength of character and doesn't hesitate to tackle the hard jobs," said Cheryl O'Connor, executive director of INFOLINK, the Eastern New Jersey Regional Library Cooperative, who presented the award to Da Rold at the annual New Jersey Library Association conference in Long Branch and was the 2009 Librarian of the Year.

O'Connor has known Da Rold since he was hired for the Plainfield position, and has watched his skills grow, allowing him to help the community as well as evolve the library into a repository of sources, resources and services.

Besides the many awards Da Rold has received — such as the Nubian Union Excellence in Leadership Award; recognition in 2009 by the Hispanic Cultural Association for his services to the Hispanic Community of New Jersey; selection to have the library participate for free in the national StoryCorps oral history program — Da Rold also has lead various city commissions and task forces.

A checklist of Da Rold's missions accomplished includes:

  • Returning a building in disrepair to function. Upon accepting the director's post, Da Rold had a leaking roof replaced and elevators repaired so they worked every day.

    "We had a budget then of just under $1 million. Now it's $1.5 million, and we have to be very creative and efficient with how the dollars are spent," Da Rold said

  • During the 30 years he lived in California and worked in the library science field doing advanced research projects for Warner Brothers, Da Rold eventually became the director of a small municipal library and served as president of his condominium association.

    "That taught me how to operate a budget, go about making repairs, all tasks I handle here," Da Rold said.

  • Partnering The Literacy Volunteers of Union County with Literacy Volunteers of Plainfield Public Library into a thriving cooperative. Since 1992, the Plainfield program has tutored 4,000 people in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESL); Basic English General Educational Development (GED) tests; U.S. Citizenship test; Basic Math; laptop computer classes; and computer classes taught in Spanish.

    "We've supported the literacy project from its beginnings and the program now has its own dedicated space in the library," Da Rold added.

  • Establishing the library's Diversity Studies Collection, now a repository of 20,000 historical images, 50,000 color negatives and Garden Club archives stored in climate-controlled conditions and reflective of city history.

    "In 2009, we presented Joe Da Rold with our Community Change Award in Education for the collection, which has he has turned into an African-American collection of journals, oral histories and books. It's an initiative that also can be replicated elsewhere," said Clyde Allen, director of the New Jersey Black Issues Convention.

  • Providing a bank of computer terminals for public Internet access, as well as job research.

  • Installing a Redbox DVD Center, the first such installation at a public library nationwide. The self-enclosed, outdoor self-service DVD rental portal provides DVD rental for $1 a day, every day, and earns the library a quarterly check representing a percentage of the rental proceeds.

    "The business came to me looking for a trial site," he said. "I immediately said yes and it's been very successful."


** This photograph was not a part of the original Courier News article. It was originally published in the article "Plainfield library director honored by county freeholders".

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