Margate is known for sprawling beaches, multimillion-dollar homes and a national landmark attraction, Lucy the Elephant.

One more thing makes the city stand out, however: Margate has the highest-paid library director in Atlantic County, with a salary greater than that of both Atlantic City’s and Atlantic County’s library directors.

Margate City Public Library Director James Cahill’s 2013 salary was $135,886. Atlantic City Free Public Library Director Maureen Frank’s salary last year was $111,256. Atlantic City’s population of 39,558 is more than six times greater than Margate’s population of 6,354, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

The Margate librarian’s salary is also higher than that of the county’s library system director, who oversees 10 library branches. Karen George was paid $94,176 in 2013.

The New Jersey Library Association’s recommended salary for library directors serving a population between 7,500 and 14,999 is $79,400. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for librarians was $55,370 in 2012, with the top 10 percent earning more than $85,430.

Cahill, director for 27 years, is paid more than double his contemporaries in Northfield, Linwood and Absecon, which like Margate are independent municipal libraries as opposed to being a part of the Atlantic County Library System.

In addition to his salary, the library board approved $57,041 in compensatory time for Cahill over a four-year period from 2007 to 2011. He did not file compensatory time in 2012 or 2013, and he declined to comment on the reasons for the overtime. In 2009, he was approved for $19,561 in compensatory time, the highest of the four-year period, which was on top of his $118,800 then-base salary. His total earnings that year were $138,362.

Additionally, Margate Library Supervisor Charles Featherer, Cahill’s assistant, was paid $77,249 in 2013 and received $39,683 in compensatory time from 2007 to 2011, with no overtime in 2012 or 2013.

Margate is the only library in Atlantic County whose employees are eligible for overtime compensation.

Mayor Mike Becker said he wasn't aware of Cahill’s salary or that he was eligible for compensatory time.

“It surprises me a little bit,” Becker said. “You would think a person in a leadership position wouldn’t be eligible for comp time.”

Cahill’s contract is determined by the library board, which is made up of citizens appointed by the city.

Aubrey Gerhardt, director of the Otto Bruyns Public Library of Northfield, who was paid $45,000 in 2013, said she often works more than 40 hours a week without compensation. Although a raise or overtime would help her and her husband, who’s also a librarian, to live more comfortably, she said she wouldn’t want that strain on the city budget.

“With a library budget that has been cut from $317,520, with $184,857 going to salaries, wages and fringe benefits, to $308,411, with $179,530 going to salaries, wages and fringe benefits, it’s hard to find any room in the budget to increase wages,” she said. “I know that the other municipal libraries in the Coalition of Independent Libraries are feeling the same pinch.”

As an independent municipal library, the majority of the Margate library’s funding comes from the city’s property-tax revenue. The library has a $1,283,065 budget this year. The county system libraries, which include those in Ventnor, Somers Point, Longport, Brigantine, Egg Harbor Township, Egg Harbor City, Galloway Township, Hammonton and Mays Landing, are funded by a direct tax rate.

Cahill referred comment to his lawyer, Thomas Vesper, who said “the level of services that are provided (at the Margate library) takes up a lot of time to provide.”

Asked to elaborate, Vesper told his partner, Kathleen Beers, to go on the library’s website and get a list of services, which he then faxed to The Press in a statement that said the Margate library operates its own state-of-the-art library computer system that is linked to the Margate school libraries, and every child in the Margate schools is issued a library card. Likewise, 22,000 people visited the library in 2013, and the library has more than 70,000 items.

Contact Elisa Lala:


@ElisaLala on Twitter

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More than 30 years’ experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Colorado, Texas and New Jersey and 1985 winner of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association’s John Murphy Award for copy editing.

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