Mary Jacobs Library Foundation: A note on research and visioning from the community

The Mary Jacobs Library Foundation works to find financial and community support for the Mary Jacobs Library, situated in Montgomery Township, New Jersey. “The Foundation’s mission is to provide a library building for the community. We strive to maintain an innovative, safe and welcoming environment that inspires learning, advancing technology and cultural engagement in the community.” I created a review document for the purpose of understanding and clarifying some ideas for the foundation. The research was drawn primarily from my long-standing association with the library while fundraising for Ootsav; the notes from a meeting and discussions with board members.

The relationship I have with the library has been one of a concerned community member with children growing up in this town and friends and their families with thriving lives. This is made possible by the infrastructure this town is able to provide in part due to the taxes, the institutions it has and supports: the library being one of them.

Libraries are changing in a big way due to technology and there is a need to adapt to these economic and socially relevant circumstances. The Mary Jacobs Library works to support the community and has been an invaluable part of the town since the early part of the century. In order for it to thrive and grow, I think it needs a dedicated move to include the rest of the community and this is portrayed in the design outlay presented in the form of an idea: a process-flow.

The work is primarily based on immersive research that locates problem areas and examines them in depth for a lack or a need. This process is situated in sociological theory and more specifically in the realm of auto-ethnography. I have lived in this town and volunteered for all the time in the schools, the municipality and two libraries- MJL and the Princeton Public Library. I am able to locate myself in the big picture of the town, the institutions, their touch points and the pain points around them. The library has an interesting history of support and growth through the years. The intent to fund raise through Ootsav has been a process of involvement on my part and also to bring support of the larger community.

Libraries are an integral part of the lives of people, just as other social institutions like schools, churches, temples, courts or the police. For a holistic development of a populace-whether it’s the children, young adults or seniors, one institution cannot sustain without the other. We never hear of doors closing for a church or a temple; why then must a library be considered for such a decision? As an idealistic big picture question, this was a way to uphold a better way of life; but the point is also to question how the sound basis of a community structure be up for questioning and easy disposal? The idea is to understand ways in which social and people engagement can be made possible in the realm of practical interactions and not just with the help of social media and writing of checks for support. The document enables such a process and although doesn’t hit at all the answers, it hopefully brings up questions for debate and discussion.

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