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Jacksonville Library Funding Could Get Boost After City Finance Committee Meeting

Lindsey Kilbride
About 30 library supporters showed up at Friday's library budget hearing at City Hall.

The Jacksonville Public Library is asking for a nearly $2 million increase in the mayor’s proposed budget, and several city council members say they may consider at least a smaller bump.

The library’s executive director stressed the growing demand for libraries during budget hearings Friday.

Mayor Lenny Curry’s proposing about half a million dollars less for library materials than what was approved last year. Materials include everything from books—hard copy, electronic and audio — to online research databases.

But as the mayor’s Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa pointed out Friday, last year’s library spending increase was one-time funding.

“That’s not recurring, and so we don’t carry it over,” Mousa said. “But we think the libraries are extremely important.”

The proposed city budget does include four additional library positions and a $138,991 increase in part-time salaries, which was part of collective bargaining. Overall, Mousa said, the budget reflects Curry’s priorities of public safety and infrastructure. But he said more money could be in the cards for libraries in future years.

However, council members seem receptive to the library’s request this year: an $850,000 increase for materials, which would also help offset a state funding decrease of $150,000. Additionally, the library is asking for more than $1 million to increase nine locations’ operations from five to six days a week.

Interim library Executive Director Jennifer Giltrop said foot traffic has increased at the city’s 21 libraries by about 3.4 percent so far this year. She said last year 5.7 million items were checked out, there were 720,000 sessions on library computers and 240,000 people took advantage of library programming, from children’s events to literacy classes and resume help.

“Our numbers are up in places like meeting room use,” she added.

During the meeting Councilman Jim Love pleaded with colleagues not to abandon the library, and Councilwoman Lori Boyer asked library reps to come back with different scenarios of how they’d use some funds for additional hours, if council can’t approve their entire request.

Councilman Reggie Gaffney said “There’s no way at the end of his exercise that libraries shouldn't get something.”  

The full council will decide after the hearings wrap up this month.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.