Library Foundation to celebrate state award

Library Foundation to celebrate state award
Florence Cunningham, Friends of Brentwood Branch Library; Ronnie King, Chair, Jacksonville Public Library Board of Library Trustees; Judy Klein, Friends of Murray Hill Library; Nancy Beecher, Friends of Murray Hill Library; Josh Messinger, Friends of Beaches Branch Library; Jennifer Giltrop, Interim Library Director; Margaret Smith, Friends of Jacksonville Public Library, and Roxanne Henkle, Friends of Willowbranch Library. Not pictured: Friends of the Olga L. Bradham and Etta L. Brooks Branch Library, Friends of the Dallas Graham Branch Library, Friends of the South Mandarin Branch Library, Friends of the Maxville Branch Library

Contrary to “digital” belief, libraries are not dead. Nor are their supporters.

Long before the Jacksonville Public Library Foundation was founded in 1986, the nonprofit Friends of the Jacksonville Library was established in June 1955.

And even before that, in 1902 Andrew Carnegie granted the City of Jacksonville $55,000 to build a library at 101 E. Adams St., where “Open to All” was etched above the doors.

The sentiment hasn’t changed in over 100 years, thanks to efforts by the local Friends of the Library groups.

In the 62 years since their founding, the Friends have taken to the sidewalks gathering petitions for a variety of concerns. They have raised funds to supplement programs in the neighborhood branches. In 2013, they collected signatures to try to implement an independent tax district to fund libraries. They have lobbied vigorously against proposed budget cuts and, as was the case this year, were successful in getting $1.1 million in funds reinstated.

“Good libraries build collections but great libraries build communities,” said Kevin Hyde, board chair for the Jacksonville Public Library Foundation. “We appreciate the Mayor and City providing ongoing support for the library’s day-to-day operations as well as restoring $850,000 to the budget to purchase additional books, audio and video materials. They demonstrated their commitment to the entire Jacksonville public library system.”

The victory was incomplete, however.

“We were disappointed that the additional funds weren’t allocated to restore Monday hours at eight libraries, including Murray Hill and Willowbranch, but pleased that an additional $850,000 was found to add to the materials budget,” said Judy Klein, treasurer for Friends of the Murray Hill Library.

In gratitude for the many hours spent by members of the local Friends of the Library groups, the Board of Library Trustees declared October 15-21 “Friends of Libraries Week.”

“It certainly is an honor to be recognized by the Library Board of Trustees for our ongoing support and commitment to Jacksonville’s most important and vital asset, our fair city’s public library system,” said Roxanne Henkle, president of Friends of the Willowbranch Library. “It was a privilege to work and coordinate with the library’s different friends groups. With our concentrated effort, we were able to be the voice of advocacy during the city’s budget talks.”

Prior to the budget victory, the Jacksonville Public Library had been named Library of the Year by the Florida Library Association from among more than 800 libraries.

“We clearly have a great library. As far as we know, this is our first time being named Library of the Year,” said Jamie Self, executive director of the Jacksonville Public Library Foundation.

“This library has really pulled forward and the Library of the Year award is an incredible means of acknowledging its success,” said Betsy Lovett, who served on the Library Foundation board for several years. “No one can take our education away from us and the library is one of the greatest means we have to achieve an education. It’s very important that it’s recognized and the City should continually support it.”

Hyde also acknowledged it takes the support of private donors and businesses to truly make the library great. “Private donations support the wonderful programs that led to our library being named Florida’s Library of the Year,” he said. “We want to thank our supporters and encourage them to celebrate with the Foundation on November 9th.”

The Foundation is hosting a Library of the Year Celebration, Thursday, Nov. 9, 6:30 p.m. in the Betsy Lovett Courtyard at the Main Library on Laura Street.


By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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