Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Library Ills Reviewed Focus Group Points out Problems

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Library Ills Reviewed Focus Group Points out Problems

Article excerpt

Whether it's building a new downtown library, improving neighborhood branches or adding library services throughout the county, one thing is clear: the Jacksonville Public Library system needs improvement.

That was the consensus among about 40 people who attended a two-hour meeting last night to discuss library needs countywide and possibly building a new downtown library.

Among those calling for vast changes was Neal Van Ells, 74, who complained that he can't find books he needs at any branch and blamed politicians for not caring.

"I've been a library rat all my life and the Jacksonville library is the worst I've ever encountered, bar none," said the Baymeadows man. "Obviously the city doesn't spend enough money on the library. Let's do something about marching on City Hall to get them to pay attention to this library."

The meeting and related focus groups being held during the week are being sponsored by library officials and moderated by a consultant being paid $60,000 to study library services.

The study by Texas-based Providence Associates was initially designed to focus on building a downtown library and got expanded last month to cover the countywide system.

Library officials hope to convince Mayor John Delaney that the 34-year-old downtown library on North Ocean Street is too small to handle its collection of about 1.7 million books, tapes and other items.

Several at last night's meeting at The Florida Times-Union said a new downtown branch was desperately needed.

"We need a mother ship," said Eric Johnson, 36, of Venetia. "I've been to San Francisco; their library is unbelievable. I've been to Seattle. All major cities have a main branch library that's just outstanding. In this town of 1 million [residents], I think we can afford it."

Delaney has expressed an interest in building a library annex and improving neighborhood libraries. …

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