Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Library Lovers Fight Back | Petition Aims to Keep Facility Open until a Temporary Site Found

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Library Lovers Fight Back | Petition Aims to Keep Facility Open until a Temporary Site Found

Article excerpt

VENICE

VENICE -- Fueled by a mixture of outrage and suspicion over the planned Feb. 1 closing of the Venice Public Library, concerned residents have started a petition to persuade county commissioners to keep the library open until a temporary location is found -- preferably on the island of Venice.

"We essentially want to put the horse back in front of the cart," said Janine Joyner, who, along with her husband Bob Jung, hosted a meeting Thursday of about 30 people, who talked about their frustrations over the closure.

Joyner and others at the meeting said that the decision to close the 51-year-old library because of persistent mold issues was made abruptly, without public input, and without a firm contingency plan for a temporary library in place.

"Find a temporary location -- Bob and I have offered to even help move the books -- and then close the library," Joyner continued. "But don't close it first and not know when -- whether it's three months, six months, three years -- you'll get a temporary location.

"That's our concern, that no effort will be made to get that temporary location."

The lack of public dialogue prior to the decision led many in the group to question the veracity of the mold concerns.

"This is such a disproportionate reaction to the actual problem and I think that's a major issue," said Jackie Mineo.

That perception is further complicated by the fact that the City of Venice had a mold problem in 2013 at the Venice Community Center - - which was built in 1976 -- but that building remains open.

But while city workers have discovered moisture in the community center's foundation slab, there's currently no mold in the building, Venice Public Works Director John Veneziano said. That's because the concrete slab is "encapsulated" by tile floors, he added.

In contrast, most of the library's floors are carpeted.

Joyner and several others noted that the quick closure is likely prompted by the county wanting to avoid a lawsuit for keeping open a potentially sick building.

"We do think that the liability is the main issue but so far as we know, nobody has made any claims," Joyner said. "Or if they have, then let us know, so we can empathize with the people and empathize with the commission."

Lueanne Wood -- who started the petition drive -- said that the county's numbers of 300,000 visitors per year suggest that 1.5 million people have used the library in a five-year span, with no illnesses reported.

Sarabeth Kalajian, director of libraries and historical resources for Sarasota County, responded in a phone interview that, while no health issues have been reported, odor and discomfort issues have been noted on comment cards filled out by some patrons.

"We have already heard from people who stopped using that library and shifted to other libraries," she added. …

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