Securing the Future: The Case for Supporting Sarasota County Libraries

digitallibrary

In this high-tech, digital age, Sarasota County’s libraries play a vital role. As information barrages us from every angle and electronic device, people still flock to their public library for information, inspiration and community engagement. They attend educational and cultural programs, check out books, e-books, music and movies, use the free computers and bring their children for story hour and summer reading programs.

The Sarasota County Library system is a particularly vital community information resource.  More than 10,000 people visit the nine Sarasota County libraries each day – and more than 30,000 additional people are daily users of the Sarasota County Library Online.  An amazing 74% of County residents have a library card, ranking Sarasota #2 among Florida counties.  Last year, volunteers logged more than 96,000 hours of service, the equivalent of 46 full time employees and valued at more than $2 million.  In community surveys, library users and non-users alike report good library services are a critical part of the quality of life in Sarasota County.

The Florida Library Association has recently recognized the Sarasota County Library system as the 2012 Florida Library of Year.  This outstanding accolade recognizes many innovations in the system, including the new Teen Center at the Selby Library, the Osprey library located in Historic Spanish Point facility, the increased outreach efforts using staff and volunteers to reach readers in all parts of the community, the One Book countywide reading program and the “Pass It On” collections in buses, health clinics and neighborhood centers.

History and mission of the Library Foundation for Sarasota County

The Library Foundation for Sarasota County was launched in April, 2011 after two years of planning and selection of board members under the able direction of Library General Manager Sarabeth Kalajian and the Library Advisory Board.  Shannon Staub, former Sarasota County Commissioner and library advocate, was elected to serve as the first president of the Library Foundation Board.

The mission of the Library Foundation is to ensure the future of our libraries as an indispensable community resource by raising public awareness of the importance of our libraries, by generating private sector financial support to complement public tax funding, and by being a proponent for issues that promote the viability of our library system.

We envision a Library Foundation that listens to its citizens, responds to community needs and anticipates the future direction of library services.  We are committed to discovering and engaging individuals, foundations and businesses in the following goals for support of libraries:

• Enhancing literacy and learning for all ages
• Increasing innovation and technology advances
• Providing resources for people and businesses in transition
• Building for a strong community through civic engagement

To begin, we will work with the Sarasota County Library system and the Friends Alliance to mount a year-long public awareness campaign that focuses on the “12 Great Things about the Library of the Year” so that prospective donors and the general public are aware of the outstanding programs and services of the Library – and also its current and future needs.

Why the Sarasota County Library needs private support

The economic downturn has taken its toll on public institutions.  Tax dollars at both the county and state levels are shrinking.  The current operating budget of the Sarasota County Library is $10,411,278.  Revenue to support the Library comes from County tax receipts (92%), state aid (3%), federal and other grants (2%) and private donations (3%). Library funding has decreased each year since 2007, in spite of increased demand. Funding today is comparable to the level in 2002 when there were only six libraries. County and State funding for collections has also decreased by 80%. Staff levels have been trimmed by 28% to 2002 levels, decreasing from 76% to 52% as a percentage of total library costs.

The Sarasota County Library system has learned to do more with less – and has been recognized as the 2012 Florida Library of the Year for its innovation, flexibility and creativity. But to maintain the current level of excellence and insure future growth, private support is essential.

The Library Foundation for Sarasota County will seek funding for childhood literacy programs such as Born to Read (for children from birth to five years of age) and adult literacy initiatives such as the Conversation Café.  We will help the Library add innovative new technologies such as mobile applications (“apps”) for readers on the move, and we will seek support for high-demand electronic books, data bases and other e-resources.  We are committed to providing outstanding, up-to-date information and programs to improve the quality of life in Sarasota County including job search resources, small business development information, and programming partnerships with cultural and service organizations.  We support the age-old and ever-new role of the Library as an open forum for civic engagement and will seek funding to bring outstanding authors, thinkers and arbiters to create community conversations on many topics.

We will need many partners to be successful.  We are committed to helping the Sarasota County Library system build on its strong history of community partnerships which has enabled Library leaders to offer programs and services far beyond its budget.  To that end, we will support a volunteer recruitment, training and coordination effort to continue to expand Library offerings without additional paid staff.  We will seek new donors, large and small, to provide the financial resources needed to fulfill our mission and goals.

We all have a stake in the future of our libraries, even if we are not library users.  For every one of us who orders a book on Amazon, there are two others who check out a book from the library.  For each new iPad purchased at the Apple store, another computer novice turns to the library for help getting online. Scores of entrepreneurs turn to the library for the information they need and hundreds of seniors come to the library for their daily social interaction.  Libraries are critical community anchors.

 

We invite you to join us in securing the future of our libraries.

Just imagine the possibilities and the difference your support will make!

 

Did you like this? Share it: