Camden library workers get layoff notices

CAMDEN, N.J. - December 30, 2010

Rasheed Hightower faced locked library doors today. The 11-year-old had come to research a school project.

"Social studies. I wanted to see who was the first one to make the computer," Rasheed said.

The history of computers will have to wait, this was a furlough day for staffers at Camden's cash strapped libraries.

The 19 people who work at Camden's two remaining libraries face layoffs as the Camden County government prepares to take over. Their jobs are to be eliminated February 11th.

It is part of a larger financial meltdown that will soon see almost half of Camden's police force laid off.

The only bright spot for Rasheed and others is the Ferry Avenue Library branch will likely be taken over by the much larger county system.

Its director Linda Devlin says that will mean more resources for city library patrons.

"We have a tremendously successful summer reading program," Devlin said.

One challenge is the city's antiquated paper and rubber stamp checkout system will have to be upgraded to make it compatible with the county's computerized system.

As for the pink slipped city staffers, Devlin encourages them to apply, though there are no guarantees the county is about to post job openings.

"They are encouraged to apply and we will be interviewing them for the positions if they choose to do so," Devlin said.

Camden has only two branches left. For now the county is planning to operate only the Ferry Avenue branch on the south edge of town.

The older main branch downtown will be shuttered in February.

The main branch downtown could be closed and replaced with a space carved out of Rutgers University's Robeson Library, but so far nothing has been finalized.

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The AP contributed to this report.

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