"I discovered that the books were too old to do any kind of research," said Rodriguez. "I couldn't believe it. The library is trying to update their books, but they need money to do that."
Rodriguez, who is very involved in his two children's education, is the vice president of the Union Hill High School Parent Teacher Association and a member of the Management Team at Washington School. He was just elected as the first president of the Union City Friends of the Library chapter at the group's meeting on May 2.
"I am a believer," said Rodriguez. "I believe that with help from the whole community we can change things."
The rest of the executive board members elected at the meeting were Vice President G. Lu Kirkinis, who was a founding member of the organization, Secretary Christina Cannavale, Treasurer Susan Murray and three Members at Large: Angela Dagostino, Jane Pedler and Richard Kalbian.
Strapped for cash
While the group has already organized a number of committees, including fundraising and gardening, Rodriguez said that its main concern right now is the library budget.
According to Joseph Sivo, a member of the Library Board of Trustees, the library is at least $60,000 short for this year, and therefore will not be able to afford to give their employees their mandatory yearly raises.
The library system, which received $900,000 in city funding in 1992, now receives less than $500,000 from the city.
"We as an organization or going to try to keep the library open," said Rodriguez who planned to confront the mayor and Board of Commissioners about their budget at the city's budget hearing on May 10. "This is our main priority."
No other choice
As Sivo sees it, the library has two choices, both involving the closing of the 15th Street library, which Sivo is not in favor of.
"We can either close the building and further shut down hours [at the 43rd Street branch] or close the 15th Street library and lay off workers," said Sivo, who considers both options only temporary solutions.
However, the library is already understaffed, which makes it impossible for it to provide the proper amount of new books needed to meet the requirement.
According to the state, the city's two-branch library system should have at least five professional staff members. Right now, the system has only two certified librarians: Library Director William Breedlove and Branch Librarian Nolan Ledet.
Plans to build a new central library as part of the new middle school that is being constructed on the Monastery Site at 19th and West streets will provide the city with two libraries. However, there is much concern about opening this library.
"We are being kept out of the loop," said Sivo, who feels that if the Board of Trustees is going to be expected to run the building, they should be informed about the plans for the building. "In no way were we informed of any of the plans involved in the new library building."
"The community here in Union City realizes that the library is not only for the kids," said Rodriguez, who was afraid that the library's location inside the middle school would be restrictive toward the community. "It is for the whole community."
Money also plays a factor in the concern for the new library building. Since the library is planned for community use, the state Board of Education will not provide the funding needed to build the library, leaving the city's Board of Education to kick in $1.9 million.
"If they are scrounging around to find the money to build the new building," asked Sivo. "Why can't they just try to find the money to run the two buildings we already have?"
However, Sivo said until a decision is made, they are just going to continue to run the two library buildings the best they can.
"We are moving along," said Sivo. "We are going to run a good library."