Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Changes Are Needed in Library System

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Changes Are Needed in Library System

Article excerpt

The grass is always greener they say.

Or to put it in modern government terms, the other library is always better managed and more efficient than your own.

Two City Council members Tuesday night raised the Orange County/Orlando public library system as a model of efficiency for Jacksonville because its budget is lower, yet it serves more residents.

The councilmen noted Orange County's library has won several awards recently, as has Jacksonville's.

But if you want to copy the Orange County model, here is what Duval County residents would get:

Higher property taxes: Orange County residents approved a property tax increase in 1980 to fund their library. Property taxes fund almost 90 percent of the library system's budget there.

Closing six branch libraries: The Orange County system has 15 branches. Duval County has 21.

MORE INDEPENDENCE

There may be a good reason for Orange County's apparent efficiency - its independence.

Orange County has a governing body composed of the county commissioners and one member of the Orlando City Council. That group then picks a five-member library board.

Having a 19-member City Council getting involved with the library is clearly not effective.

If you were to ask library board members if they would accept less money for a dedicated funding stream and more independence, they probably would say yes.

In fact, in the library's new capacity plan, they recommend exactly the structure that Orlando has. The plan recommends exploring a dedicated funding stream, for instance.

Currently, library fines aren't even kept within the Jacksonville library; they are turned over to the city's general fund.

There are strong indications that the city of Jacksonville's central services are costing the library system money.

For instance, a consultant said that the city charges the library system about $6 million a year for computer services when it should cost about $2 million.

Jacksonville should be having a citywide conversation about the future of its library system because the current setup is not working.

The library board has no real independence. …

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