The Jacksonville, FL, Public Library faces deep budget cuts if Mayor Alvin Brown’s proposed budget goes through. The library’s current operating budget is $38.2 million, and the mayor is proposing an 11 percent reduction. The mayor presented his budget on July 16, but it won’t be voted on until Sept. 29.
According to the library’s blog and newsletter, the $4.66 million in cuts would leave the library closed on Sundays, reduce hours during the week, cut the materials budget practically in half, and eliminate 71 full time jobs (a 20 percent reduction). (The 264 service hours cut would come to almost a quarter of total service hours, according to the Florida Times-Union, and the jobs cuts would include 41 vacancies and 30 filled jobs, including librarians and library technicians, from a total staff of 352.
The Times Union translated those numbers into statistics more meaningful to users: 189,000 fewer computer sessions per year, as many as 1.3 million fewer circulations, 6000 fewer community group meetings, 10,000 fewer copies of new books for adults, 5000 fewer copies of books for children and teens, 1000 fewer new DVDs, 560 fewer music CDs, almost 45,000 fewer hours of literacy instruction, and 2700 fewer programs.
The cuts are necessary to avoiding closing branches: the City Council over the past three years has rejected the idea of eliminating any library branches, library board members said. Perhaps for that reason, “Closing libraries was not one of the options considered at this time,” board Chairwoman Brenda Simmons-Hutchins said. However, board members Mark Wood and John Gibson would prefer closing some libraries and consolidating services with a wider range of hours. “It’s possible to reduce the services at the core to the point where you have a bit of an implosion …and at that point you may be better off severing them and leaving the critical core more robust and the fringe pieces not involved in the drain,” Gibson said. “The drain can be substantial. It’s that or the-death-of-a-thousand-cuts scenario.”
According to First Coast News, the Jacksonville Public Library was already considering becoming an independent tax district. If that were to happen, the library would no longer be overseen by the city, though the leaders would still be elected officials. However, this can’t happen in time to help with the current budget straits: the idea would have to be approved by the state legislature before being put on the local ballot, a process which takes several years.
Director Barbara A.B. Gubbin could not immediately be reached for comment.
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