Proposed budget cuts cliffhanger for local libraries

By Susanna P. Barton
Resident Community News

Next month, the Jacksonville City Council will vote on Mayor Alvin Brown’s proposed $4.6 million budget cut — an event that could mean big changes for neighborhood libraries like Willowbranch, Murray Hill and San Marco.
Council members will vote on the budget Sep. 29. Kathy Lussier, assistant director for community relations and marketing for the Jacksonville Public Library said specific schedules and hours for all neighborhood libraries would be known after the late-September council vote.
According to Jacksonville Public Library officials, many critical library changes are at stake including: library closures on Sundays with reduced hours during the week; books, DVD and downloadables budget slashed by $500,000; the elimination of 71 full-time positions; and reduced hours at the Main Library to 48 hours a week.
Every library in the city’s system — including neighborhood facilities like Willowbranch, Murray Hill and San Marco — faces critical closures. Branch libraries are expected to be open for 40 hours each week and most will be closed on Mondays and Sundays, according to library officials.
Library Friends groups across the city are taking action. Harry Regan, president of the Friends of the Jacksonville Public Library, said library supporters are looking at long-range solutions.
He and other library supporters participated in a JCCI Study funded by the Friends of the Library to find more suitable funding. That study, he said, recommended a special tax district.
“The first step is securing enough petition signatures for a straw vote on the question, and we are working on getting those signatures,” Reagan said in an email responding to questions.”
Another group, Save Our Public Libraries Inc. was formed recently to “promote active and continuous educational and multi community use of Jacksonville libraries and to ensure that all appropriate elected officials and decision-makers have the information necessary to understand the importance and positive impact of the public libraries to the citizens and stakeholders of Jacksonville,” according to its website at www.savejaxlibraries.com.
Library officials shared other ways concerned residents could step up to support the future of local libraries. Residents can contact city council representatives Lori Boyer (District 5) or Jim love (District 14) at (904) 630-1377 to share opinions or contact Mayor Alvin Brown at [email protected] or (904) 630-1776. The Friends of the Jacksonville Public Library can be reached via email at [email protected] The Jacksonville Public Library also is accepting donations. For more information call (904) 630-4637 or email [email protected]    “My advice to those who are concerned about the library is to contact their city council members,” Reagan shared. “I was a member of the City Council for five years and I know contacting them can help. And I always remind people that they are represented by six council members — a district member and five at-large council members.”

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