Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Other Libraries Seek Stable Funding

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Other Libraries Seek Stable Funding

Article excerpt

The votes have been in for years. The public library system in Jacksonville is its most popular government service.

Ever since the Better Jacksonville Plan included major improvements in the library system, the libraries have been one of the city's gems - along with the urban parks system.

However, in recent years, the library system has been hit with a double whammy: annual cuts in its budget forced by the recession, combined with a historic change in the economy from print to electronic books.

No more than newspapers, libraries are faced with juggling a massive print collection while society is moving quickly away from it.

How do you juggle declining revenues with changing customer tastes? It's difficult enough in any case, but the Jacksonville library system has two additional complications:

- A governing board that is independent in name only. Big decisions are made by the Mayor's Office or the City Council or both.

- Without predictable funding, long-term decisions can't be made.

So without resolving these multiple issues, the library system is left with inevitable cuts in quality: fewer resources, buildings in bad need of repair and cuts in operating hours.

What's to be done? That's the focus of the study being conducted by Jacksonville Community Council Inc. and funded by the Friends of the Library, the Jacksonville Public Library Foundation and individual donors.

The second meeting of the study last Friday focused on what two major library systems did to solidify funding.

A FAILURE STILL WORKED

The Louisville library system sought to become a separate taxing district but lost a vote in 2007 just as the recession hit.

"The community has to be ready to vote for new taxes, and we never really were," said Craig Buthod, the Louisville director.

Nevertheless, the campaign itself produced a wave of positive activity, he said.

"One success after another," he said.

What would it have taken to win over the public? Perhaps a more focused campaign. You have to be able to sell the community on excellence.

"You can't win by whining," Buthod said. "Nobody wants to join failure, they want to join a success story."

A comparable situation in Jacksonville would be the failed vote to fund a children's commission. …

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