Rutgers University and Camden leaders are discussing a plan to place a public library branch on the Rutgers-Camden campus, officials said Friday.
The move would be part of a broader plan to make city libraries part of the Camden County system.
Under the deal being considered, the existing downtown library on Federal Street would be replaced by a facility on the campus. The city's new branch in the Centerville neighborhood is expected to remain open.
"Given the limited financial resources, everyone is looking for a way to continue library services to the people of the city, and this is a way," said Martin McKernan, president of the Camden library board.
The Camden Free Public Library system appeared on the verge of insolvency this year after state and city funding cuts.
The city cut funding for the 105-year-old library system from $908,000 last year to $389,000 this year, part of an effort to close a $28 million budget gap. In August, Mayor Dana L. Redd announced talks to merge the city's libraries into the county system.
Staffers from the city and county are set to meet next week to go over the spatial requirements and logistics of creating a new downtown library. And Rutgers officials are discussing whether they would place the public library within the university library or somewhere else on campus, said Mike Sepanic, a spokesman for Rutgers-Camden.
"It would be a county library annex housed in Rutgers," he said. "There's no timeline yet. We're still wrapping our heads around it."
Some feel it will be a blow to Camden to lose its city library system.
"Culturally there's a world of difference between Camden and the suburbs," said Frank Fulbrook, a member of the city library board. "I think the libraries within the cities should be appropriate for city residents to use."
The downtown branch's proposed move from Federal Street to Rutgers is expected to mean a substantial reduction in space and possibly workers.
The two city libraries employ 21 people. The county has not determined how many it will hire when it takes over.
"People who are currently employed by the Camden City library system could very well be among those hired by the county," said county spokeswoman Joyce Gabriel.
The library building on Federal Street would revert back to the city if a county takeover is finalized, McKernan said.
The mayor's office did not return a phone call for comment.