Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Activist Thwarts Library's 'Evaluation'

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Activist Thwarts Library's 'Evaluation'

Article excerpt

COMMENTARY

Just strolling through Selby Library's special collection on environmental matters and reading the book jackets there is like taking Introduction to Environmental Issues 101.

Some books are about local rivers and the waters of Sarasota Bay, and underground water, and mangroves, shore birds and manatees. Obvious things like that.

But others are about things you might not think of: Mosquitoes. Grass. Snails. Just walking through, the whole web of life thing kind of jumped out at me.

But I wasn't at the Sarasota downtown library to browse. I was checking to see if the environmental books were still there. The fact is, some aren't, and it is hard to even guess how many are gone.

It seems Maynard Hiss was right.

Hiss, a longtime environmental activist, had told me he was flabbergasted to learn through the grapevine that the county library's special environmental section was being dismantled. Books were being quietly given away. Some other libraries had been invited to send people over to help themselves, and some did.

Nothing was announced publicly, you understand. The sign above the environmental section was in place as usual, with no added note alerting the public to any change.

So Hiss contacted County Administrator Tom Harmer to ask what was going on.

Harmer replied that he knew nothing, and directed Hiss to Sarabeth Kalajian, director if the library system.

I talked to her, too, but I don't know what to think about what she told me.

By the time we spoke, Hiss had reminded county officials of a provision in Sarasota County's comprehensive plan, a massive document with lots of details about development rules and the like. It has lots of details that few people know without looking them up.

But Hiss knew about one thing in there that Kalajian really should have been aware of: The comp plan clearly states that the county is required to maintain and pay for that special section, just as it has for many years.

So I'm pretty sure what I heard from Kalajian was some high- speed backpedaling.

No, she wasn't dismantling the section, she told me. They were just evaluating it, considering some changes. …

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