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Library consortium members again win top award

Courier News, July 5, 2011

WOODBRIDGE — Having more than 40 years of experience is not the only similarity between the 2010 and 2011 winners of the New Jersey Library Association's Librarian of the Year award.

For the second consecutive year, this honor has gone to members of the Libraries of Middlesex Automation Consortium, based in the Avenel section of the township.

Joseph Da Rold, director of the Plainfield Public Library in Plainfield, was given the award in 2010, and Monroe Township Public Library's director Irene Goldberg is this year's recipient.

According to Eileen Palmer, executive director of the consortium, this award is "given by the New Jersey Library Association at its annual (Spring) conference. … The librarian of the year is always given to a librarian who has exemplary leadership skills and who has given a lot to our profession.

"We're very proud that this award has been given to directors of libraries who are members of LMxAC."

The NJLA's spring conference was held on May 3 at the Ocean Place Resort in Long Branch.

The consortium consists of "27 libraries in Middlesex, Monmouth, Union and Somerset counties" whose members have pooled their resources and created a library automation system, allowing them to share and borrow materials among one another, Palmer explained.

The Plainfield Public Library and Monroe's library belong to the consortium.

"Joe Da Rold and Irene Goldberg exemplify the modern library director," she said. "Each has a long history of service to libraries in New Jersey and each now run libraries that are universally recognized as providing the highest levels of library service to their communities."
Longtime librarian

Da Rold has spent 17 years with Plainfield Public Library, but his work as a librarian began long before.

"I got my master's (of library science) at Rutgers in 1965 and have been a librarian since," he said.

Da Rold grew up in North Plainfield and lives there today. He had spent 30 years as a librarian on the West Coast before coming to Plainfield in 1994. During his time in California, he worked in the field of library science.

"I was very honored. I've had a long career," Da Rold said, of receiving the 2010 award. "It really felt like a lifetime achievement award for me."

During his time with the library, he has worked with the local history and literacy programs, providing resources such as blueprints of homes in the town and an index of newspaper clippings and obituaries. The adult literacy resources include English as a Second Language and General Educational Development programs.

"We offer all of our services free," Da Rold said. "We have about 75 active tutors, who are all volunteers that sign up to be trained and commit to tutoring four hours a week. They have about 200 students. … We also have about 160 on the waiting list."

The latest project with the library has been renovation of the children's library, which will have a rain–forest theme.

"This is not your grandparents' library anymore," he said, with a laugh. "I'm very proud of what we've accomplished."
Starting from scratch

Though their libraries are different, Goldberg also has spent more than four decades as a librarian. In the past 23 years, the East Brunswick resident helped the Monroe Township Public Library become the library it is today, quite literally.

"I started from scratch," Goldberg said of her experience with the Monroe Township Public Library.

"I started the library here back in 1988. They hired me and I came to work with a card table and a folding chair on the first floor of a municipal building," she said. It then became a library on the first floor of the municipal building, but they quickly outgrew it, she recalled.

"Until I started in Monroe, I had no idea how eager this community was to have its own library," she said, explaining how previously residents had to borrow books from libraries in neighboring communities.

In April of 1989, the library opened at its current location.

"When we opened the doors of the library, we were mobbed. Four hours later there were only a handful of books on the shelves and no videos left. It looked like a going-out-business sale, but it was the first day," she said.

According to a statistic provided by the consortium, 70 percent of Monroe residents are library cardholders.

"I was absolutely humbled," Goldberg said about receiving the award. "For this award you're nominated and then a committee of people who were previous librarians of the year decides, so you're chosen by the cream of the crop in the state." She views being chosen in such a way as even more of an honor.

Both Da Rold and Goldberg said their libraries continue to thrive because of community support — residents actively use the resources the libraries provide and participate in programs, they said.

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