Farewell message from Library Director Robert Rynkiewicz

Robert RynkiewiczHelping individuals and getting needed information to people is part of the DNA of anyone working in a library. I am proud to have been around a group of people who shared that desire. Working with like-minded teammates and accomplishing so much has been a pleasure.

The Atlantic City Free Public Library is certainly not a static organization like some I have seen in my career. This place keeps everyone busy for sure. If anything, our problem is and has been controlling ideas and projects. This has especially been true in recent years. The library has been struggling since 2015 when the Casino Stabilization Act was implemented. Our budget was cut by more than 50 percent within a period of two years after the Casino Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) legislation began. Staffing was reduced, and the library had to become “lean and mean.” Instead of accepting defeat, all the staff worked hard to find solutions to our circumstances. The organization started evaluating our services, increasing partnerships with other organizations, looking at expenses, and increasing grant writing. We reshaped and revived the Foundation of the Library. We reached out to Mayors Guardian, Gilliam and Small, the City Council, and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs to help us survive our financial crisis. Despite a massive budget cut, the subsequent stress on the staff, the doors closing during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2019-2020, and water pipes bursting on Christmas Day 2022, the library remains intact and an essential service of the city.

My history working for the library started in 1979. Much has changed in the last 44 years. We are still providing books and answering reference questions. We continue to be a repository of Atlantic City history, and you can still borrow a movie or music recording. But you know the saying, “the only constant in life is change” and so as the diversity of the population in the city increased, as the need for social services has grown, as employment opportunities have changed, and with the impact of the internet and information technology, the library has adapted its services. The term “digital literacy” did not exist when I started working in the library. Today, it is a major part of the staff's daily work to assist individuals using the internet to apply for a job or to file for social security benefits, etc. ... Our adaptability is a testament to our commitment to serving the community's evolving needs.

The Building Employment Skills Training (BEST) programs support the vital hospitality industry in the city with food and alcohol handling certification courses. BEST also provides ESL and digital literacy classes weekly. We are currently working with the City Senior Services staff to develop new outreach programs, and a recent State Library grant will provide health-oriented programming thanks to a partnership with AtlantiCare. Our children and teen programs continue to provide a safe and secure place for family visits.

I’ve been blessed to have a dedicated group of Board members who volunteer their time and experience to the Library. Under the leadership of the new Library Director, Melissa McGeary, I am certain this library will continue growing. The library is positioned at the core of the community. It is a symbol of the aspirations of its citizens. The library is emblematic of the hopes and dreams of the people wanting a better life. What is a city without its own library? I am excited to see what lies ahead for this great institution, and I thank everyone for their support over the years.