Lobbying Library Guy
Technical Services Specialist
Clay County Public Library, Fleming Island, FL
MLS, Florida State University, Tallahassee, 1996
Won a 2010 “I Love My Librarian” award, sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the New York Times; named 2011 “Librarian of the Year” by Florida Library Association
Photo by Corey Fariello
In the three years during which Florida’s State Aid to Libraries program faced devastating cuts, Paul Clark has become a familiar sight in the halls of government in Tallahassee. “The Library Guy,” as legislators nicknamed him, lurks quietly as lawmakers pass by, holding up simple laminated signs urging those in power to stand behind library funding. In 2010, Clark gave up his entire year’s vacation—80 hours—to stand with his signs, knock on doors, and courteously ply lawmakers with statistics-packed, under-a-minute explanations of why libraries are a critical framework of the community. Many credit Clark’s on-the-spot presence with convincing legislators to approve of approximately $21.2 million in 2009, 2010, and 2011, the minimum maintenance of effort amount the state needs to receive over $8 million in Library Services & Technology Act (LSTA) money.
Clark has long known how money can change libraries, particularly ones in rural counties, about half of the counties in Florida. In his previous post as systems librarian for Florida’s Wilderness Coast Public Libraries, Clark won over $207,000 in LSTA grants between 2000 and 2009, as well as a $15,000 Community Libraries in Caring grant. His commitment comes from an “unwavering passion to improve the lives of others, particularly those who live in the poor and rural communities in Florida,” says nominator Doug Jones, retired director, Wakulla County Public Library in Crawfordville.
Last year, Clark wasn’t able to lobby as much—new job, fewer vacation days. But he did land a meeting with Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. While state aid comprises about five percent of the budget for many Florida libraries, it provides as much as 25 percent for rural ones. “I wanted to make sure that [Carroll] and the newly elected governor [Rick Scott]” knew this and were supporting libraries, Clark says, adding that because of term limits and turnover among politicians, it is critical to show up each year to lobby the new lawmakers. Clark has other signs he brings out after a successful vote. The message: “Thank you.” He’s always been politic.