One great thing: Library Foundation The Sarasota County Library system was recently named the 2012 Library of the Year by the Florida Library Association. Each month, we will feature a part of our library system that showcases the programs and resources that earned our libraries this outstanding accolade.
No. 1 Great Thing: the new Library Foundation for Sarasota County.
Travel back in time to a place that holds a special memory. That place might have had a certain look or sound. Maybe it just made you feel warm, secure and happy. That place for me was my local public library.
To make sure future generations are able to create such memories, I am chairing the new Library Foundation for Sarasota County.
With the support and guidance of Sarabeth Kalajian, general manager of the Sarasota Libraries, a group of community leaders created this new nonprofit corporation to raise private funds to complement tax dollars, to educate the public about the vital role of our libraries, and to keep our libraries on the leading edge of library technology and service innovations.
The foundation is not part of county government, but it will collaborate with the library system, the county’s Library Advisory Board and existing Friends of the Library groups at all nine county libraries. The foundation will raise funds for systemwide needs now and for an endowment to fund future needs.
I was surprised to learn that 74 percent of the residents of Sarasota County have a library card. Ten thousand people walk through our libraries’ doors each day; another 30,000 visit the library online.
Yet, public funding for our libraries has decreased every year since 2007. Staffing is down to 2003 levels and state funds for books have declined 80 percent. Libraries hours have been reduced, there are no inter-library loans and there is always a long waiting list for e-books.
Despite these challenges, Sarasota County Library System was named the Florida Library of the Year in April, recognized for excellence in creativity and customer service. The foundation is committed to building on that systemwide excellence by supporting literacy for all ages, innovations and technology advances, resources for people and businesses in transition, and a stronger community through civic engagement.
Libraries have been a huge part of my life, and I can’t imagine Sarasota without them. We have an opportunity to secure the future of all our libraries. I hope you will join the foundation in our efforts.
Shannon Staub, a former Sarasota County commissioner, is the president of the Library Foundation for Sarasota County. To learn more or to support the new Library Foundation, visit us at www.sarasota libraryfoundation.or, or contact me at info@ sarasotalibraryfoundation or 941-228-6274.