BRIDGETON - The past few years have not been kind to the Cumberland County Library.
The library was on the budget chopping block last year and in 2011, as the county Board of Chosen Freeholders considered closing the facility as a cost-saving measure.
Those plans were scuttled, in part because hundreds of county residents demanded the library remain open in 2011.
Coming to its aid last year was a special freeholder-appointed committee that, while charged with finding ways of cutting library costs and services, instead reminded the freeholders of how shuttering the facility would not be in the best interest of residents.
This year, the library got a $120,000 increase in its budget, assuring it will stay open and allowing it to celebrate its 50th anniversary July 13. Events - including refreshments, music and other activities - are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
There is some indication the library will celebrate a few more anniversaries.
"I think the freeholders made a commitment to do what we can to keep the library open," said Cumberland County Freeholder Tony Surace, whose duties include overseeing the library. "When you start talking about all the wrong lists the county seems to be on, I think education is key to trying to improve that. It's incredible, the number of programs there. I think the freeholders recognize that, as well."
Surace said there is another reason to keep the library open: Many county residents depend on it for Internet services.
"Because of the (poor) economic situation in the county, there is no computer access to as many residents as in other counties," he said. "Having that available is extremely important to all the citizenry. We sometimes have a tendency to forget that."
Statistics regarding the number of Cumberland County residents with home Internet access were not immediately available.
However, U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that, nationally, slightly more than 58 percent of Hispanics and almost 57 percent of African Americans lack home Internet service. More than 76 percent of whites have home Internet service, the statistics show.
African-Americans make up slightly more than 20 percent of Cumberland County's population, while 27 percent is Hispanic, census statistics show. The two groups make up 47 percent of the county's population.
While still open, the county library has undergone some changes.
Last year, the county library scrapped the CLUES system it shared with municipal libraries in Bridgeton, Millville and Vineland. County officials said they switched to the new LOGIN system to give users access to more resources at a lower cost than the CLUES system.
The three municipal libraries have switched to their own library system called Sierra.
And while controversy surrounding the county library seems to have subsided, at least two of the municipal libraries are facing some problems.
Earlier this year, officials in Bridgeton said the financial condition of their library means it could close at the end of 2014.
Officials with the Millville library said they have outgrown their facility on Buck Street. But a new library in Millville was stymied in September 2011 when city officials said plans for the proposed $25 million Overlook riverfront development project were placed on hold.
The project was to be built along the Maurice River at Buck and Pine streets. Plans called for a $15 million, 108-room hotel; a $6.4 million, 15,000-square-foot public library; and a $2 million, 105-space parking garage.
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If you go
What: Library's 50th anniversary celebration and kickoff of summer reading program.
Where: Cumberland County Library, 800 E. Commerce St., Bridgeton.
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 13. Programs will be held in the parking lot in front of the library. They will be moved to the library's lower level meeting room in bad weather.
More information: A full list of events and times for the event can be found at www.co.cumberland.nj.us. The phone number for the library is 856-453-2210.