2011-06-09 / Front Page

Monroe’s Goldberg is NJ’s top librarian for ’11

Town’s first and only library director ‘stays a step ahead’
BY CHRISTINA HABERSTROH
Staff Writer


Irene Goldberg Irene Goldberg MONROE — Recently named New Jersey’s Librarian of the Year for 2011, Irene Goldberg is credited with building a library from a card table and folding chair.

Goldberg, who began her career in New Rochelle, N.Y., and Hackensack, became the first librarian at the Monroe Township Public Library, which opened in 1989. She still holds that position today.

“I have been the most fortunate person,” Goldberg said of her position in Monroe.

Her co-workers, Karen Klapperstuck and Leah Wagner, nominated Goldberg for the New Jersey Library Association award.

“She is politically savvy and has helped make our library an integral part of the community and a priority for the mayor and council,” the two wrote in their nomination letter. “She is a keen observer and active participant. You can often find her chatting with patrons in the library or visiting one of the many retirement communities. She is always willing to move with the times and to meet the people she serves where they are, in the library and in their neighborhoods.

“She is excited to offer new and better ways. She likes to stay a step ahead. Our library is constantly evolving and changing,” they wrote.

Goldberg said she considers the award her “lifetime achievement,” because it is the highest honor someone can receive in the “library world” of New Jersey.

“I am very pleased to have gotten it,” she said .

Goldberg received her award at the Spring NJLA Conference awards ceremony in May. To her excitement, Mayor Richard Pucci, council President Gerald Tamburro and Councilman Irwin Nalitt attended the awards ceremony at the Ocean Place Hotel in Long Branch.

“They all mean something to me,” Goldberg said of the three officials. Pucci and Nalitt have been in office since 1988 and had a hand in hiring Goldberg. Nalitt, who with his late wife, Helen, was a catalyst in establishing the library, has called Goldberg’s appointment his greatest contribution .

Goldberg said “things have changed tremendously” over the years, but one constant has been the support of the mayor and council, who she said have made sure the library has just what it needs to stay up to date .

Goldberg laughed about how punch cards were the norm when she started, and how the library’s service model has changed for the better.

“Copy machines were cutting-edge,” she said of her early days as a librarian.

Years ago, she said, librarians basically acted as “custodians of the books.”

“We wanted you to take exceptional care of the books,” she said, adding that a reader might even see a sticker inside a book that read, “Please wash your hands before you read this.” Through the years, the mindset has changed and the library has adjusted as society and technology changed.

“I have been exceedingly fortunate to come to the right place at the right time,” she said of Monroe.

The library is now accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week through online services. Students can even get assistance with their homework assignments through the library’s webpage.

“We want you to have the most positive experience possible,” she said.

Goldberg takes pride in the fact that libraries have become true community spaces, with many people frequenting the facility several times a week.

“We expect you to come and stay,” she said. “There is lots of stuff you might stumble over if you stay … because it is all here for you, it’s yours.”

In Monroe, the library has an entire section dedicated to children, where kids can sit and stay and partake in events like Story Time and Arts and Crafts.

“It’s just so welcoming,” the enthusiastic librarian said. “I just love it.”

Joseph Da Rold, director of the Plainfield Library, delivered a speech during the awards ceremony and presented Goldberg with the award.

“I have had the good fortune to work with her on a board for several years and have seen firsthand how she interacts with her colleagues,” he said.

According to the criteria for the Librarian of the Year award, the candidate must have made a significant contribution by demonstrating the value of libraries, enhancing the image of librarians and libraries, promoting an accessible and positive climate in the library, advancing community relations, initiating a new library service or program, or publishing a book or article of national importance that advances the prominence of librarianship.

“I’m not sure if it just seems she is passionate about everything, or whether it’s her style of speech, but she has the ability to grasp issues quickly and just as quickly convince you of her viewpoint. To her credit, she is also a reconciler who would rather reach a team decision than force her own,” Da Rold said.

According to the NJLA website, the selection process was conducted by members of the Honors and Awards Committee. Former winners made the final decision from the nominations presented.

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