Interim Montclair library director named
COURTESY MONTCLAIR LIBRARY
By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Janet Torsney has been named Interim Director of the Montclair Public Library, effective Feb. 22.
Her appointment comes after the previous director, Peter Coyl, stepped down on Dec. 17 to lead the Sacramento Public Library system in California.
A library professional since 2008, Torsney has served in leadership positions in New Jersey libraries for over a decade, including Interim Director of Caldwell Public Library; Assistant Director of Montclair Public Library; and Director of Bradley Beach Public Library, Keyport Free Public Library, and Brielle Public Library, according to a March 1 press releases from the library announcing the appointment.
During Torsney’s previous tenure at Montclair Public Library, from 2017 to 2018, she managed collaborations including with the Montclair Literary Festival; upgraded collections, services and programs at the Bellevue Avenue Branch; created community-wide reads and expanded book clubs; secured grants for Summer of Shakespeare and Great America Read; and was responsible for all aspects of patron services, the release states.
"I am delighted to be back. This is a great library that supports and reflects a truly great town," Torsney said. "I look forward to working with our outstanding staff, committed board, and the rest of the community to make the Montclair Public Library better than ever."
Assistant director Selwa Shamy was running the day-to-day operations during the search for Coyl’s replacement.
Torsney comes to the library at a complicated time for the institution. The library has seen its budget rolled back in the pandemic, and is in talks with township officials over a proposal that could see trustees and administrators lose some effective control of their institution.
The township last year authorized a $31,500 forensic audit in which consultants say they found half a million dollars of overstated expenses and other issues. Library officials counter that those findings are wrong in several places and were based on a draft budget.
The township will soon introduce its budget. Under state law, the township is required to provide the library with a certain minimum of funding based on the tax base — a level that would come to $2.8 million in 2022. But Library officials are hoping for a little bit under $400,000 in discretionary aid, for a total of about $3.2 million, Coyl previously told Montclair Local. That would be $100,000 more than the library received in 2021.
But the Township Council’s finance committee and the township’s administration have proposed an arrangement that would hold back any funding beyond the state mandated amount, unless some management decisions, now made by the library's trustees, are made subject to township approval.
It’s been a point of contention for some on the Township Council, and for library supporters who protested outside the main branch in November. So far, there’s been no vote by the council on the proposal.
Torsney spent most of her childhood as a Montclair resident. As an adult, she returned to Montclair from 1992 to 2010, raising two daughters during that time. She currently resides in Asbury Park with her husband, according to the release.
Torsney is the current President of the New Jersey Library Association’s Administration and Management section, and she received an NJLA Service Award in 2017. Prior to entering the library field, she worked in public affairs and communications for almost 30 years. She holds an M.S. in Library Science from Rutgers University and a B.A. from Georgetown University, the release states.
Library Board President JoAnn McCullough told Montclair Local in January that the trustees were looking “for someone who understands the infrastructure of libraries and how they run.” They want someone who’s a strong communicator, able to promote library programs — “and of course, that also includes with the township” — and expand them through needs analysis. McCullough added they were looking for a strong strategic planner as well.