Library Supporters Ask Jacksonville City Council To Buck Mayor On Budget Cuts

Aug 9, 2017

Supporters of Jacksonville libraries are asking City Council to increase their budget against the recommendation of Mayor Lenny Curry.

Curry’s proposing a $500,000 cut from last year’s budget of $3.4 million.

The library’s materials budget — money for books, e-books and online databases — has seen a precipitous decline since 2005, when funds from the Better Jacksonville Plan helped create the Main Library on Laura Street downtown.

That year, city libraries spent $5.3 million on materials. This year, Curry’s proposing just over half that — $2.9 million.

Ed Zoller, who sits on the Friends of the Jacksonville Library board, said they’ve never really recovered from shrinking federal and local funds after the recession.

“When you adjust for current costs and inflation, that $5.3 million in 2005 was actually the equivalent of nearly $6.4 million. So, when you look at that $2.9 million that’s in the mayor’s budget, that’s a 56 percent decrease,” he said.

Zoller said the proposed city cut, combined with a recent $150,000 decrease in state funds, would reduce the library’s nonfiction budget by close to half and keep it from buying foreign-language materials altogether.

Zoller also said library patrons could expect wait lists for popular titles or reference materials to lengthen significantly, should City Council approve the cuts. Right now, Zoller said, readers wait between three and five months for the most popular print titles and eight months for most other popular items.

Zoller said the library will ask for an $850,000 increase, relative to Curry’s proposal, during the Finance Committee meeting Friday.

“There’s just been a tremendous erosion when we look at 2005 to 2018, and that’s why our request for $850,000 is so important,” he said.

He’ll also ask for more than $1 million so nine branch libraries — Argyle, Beaches, Mandarin, Maxville, Murray Hill, San Marco, South Mandarin, West and Willow Branch — can once again open six days a week.

Their hours were rolled back to five days a week in recent years to support later hours at a number of branches in economically disadvantaged areas.

Corrected: A previous version of this story said the nine libraries would now open Saturday. Some area already open Saturdays and will now hope to be available Mondays or Fridays.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at rbenk@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @RyanMichaelBenk.