"The 15th Street library was a magical place," said DeRuggiero, who calls himself a "Union City boy" and still has family living in the city. "And it still is a magical place."
DeRuggiero, the president of the Union City based real estate agency Robert DeRuggiero Inc., Realtors, has organized a fundraising effort, which began last week, to raise the $109,000 needed to balance the library's fiscal year 2002 budget.
The library receives its money from state appropriations and the municipality, however, because the library does not currently meet the minimum state standards for number of employees and new books, the library has lost much of its funding from the state.
According to Library Director William Breedlove, the library also receives some small private grants.
"This is going to make all the difference in the world for the future of the library," said Library Director William Breedlove.
West New York and North Bergen residents, whose library card entitles them to check out materials from any of the three townships, also use the Union City Library System.
In order for the library to continue running with the same amount of employees and hours of operation, the library needs a total of $667,265 just to stay afloat for the next year.
According to Breedlove, the library has lost more than three or four hundred thousand dollars in grants because the library is not meeting the state's minimum standards of service.
The state's minimum standards of service are based on population. With the new 2000 Census numbers, the library needs to have 17 employees, of which five have to be professional librarians. The library also needs a total book collection of 67,000, adding 6,700 new books each year.
Right now the library only has two professional librarians; Breedlove and Nolan Ledet, and can only budget $2,500 towards the purchasing of new books.
In the fiscal year 2002 budget, the library has received $6,236 in per capita state aid, $460,565 in municipal funds and an extra $100,000 from the Board of Education as rent for the space where the board holds its school registration. However, even with these funds, the library will still be $109,000 short of balancing their fiscal year 2002 budget. If the fundraiser amassed $109,000, that would give the library enough money to run until July 1, 2002.
DeRuggiero, along with help from the Hudson County Board of Realtors chairperson Carolyn Sadlon, Ray Bulin of Raymond Bulin Associates and Lourdes Abreu of Abreu Real Estate, is contacting businesses in Union City, West New York and North Bergen by telephone calls and letters.
"If we can get the community involved we can keep the library open," said DeRuggiero.
Robert DeRuggiero Inc., Realtors got the ball rolling with a $1,000 donation.
"No matter what happens, it is fantastic to have the community come out to support us," said Breedlove. Along with this effort, the city of Union City is looking for ways to increase the amount of funding it gives the library each year, which currently is at the minimum aid allowable by the state. The city went from giving the library more than $900,000 in 1992 to its contribution of about $400,000 in 2001.
"At this point," said Breedlove. "We are trying to take it one year at a time and one day at a time."
To help in this community effort, any business or resident can send checks made payable to Union City Public Library directly to DeRuggiero at 210 33rd St. in Union City or to Mayor Brian Stack's Office in City Hall.