The average wait time for popular print books in the Jacksonville Public Library system is around eight months, but the local Friends of the Library are hoping to change that.
The group does, however, need a little help from the residents.
Groups of Jacksonville friends gathered outside the main downtown library on Tuesday to urge patrons and city residents to pressure city council members to increase library spending.
Right now, a proposed city cut of $ 500,000 – combined with a cut in state aid – means a dramatic cut in the print budget. Non-fiction could see a decrease of 49 percent, reference materials by 33.5 percent, and international languages by 100 percent.
Jacksonville spends less than half of what some cities spend per capita on paying for their libraries. Jacksonville will spend about $ 36.40 per capita if its proposed library budget is approved by city council. That is overshadowed by the $ 78.02 per capita the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh will spend or the $ 68.76 per capita the Nashville Public Library will spend, according to the Friends of the Library.
To meet customer demand, the library needs approximately $ 2 million more – $ 850,000 for a materials budget and $ 1.1 to extend the hours of operation of nine branch libraries. This extra money for hardware can help increase the number of titles purchased and reduce long wait times.
“I’m stuck in the numbers and often forget the face of what’s going on,” said Ed Zoller, of Friends of South Mandarin Library. “Our library is full of activities for children, tax assistance for seniors, computer lessons …”
According to Zoller, every dollar invested in libraries generates a return of $ 6.15 in the community.
The proposed budget for 2018 is $ 2.9 million, he added. This significantly reduces the library budget from last year and certainly from 2005. Last year’s budget was $ 3.4 million, and in 2005 it was 5.3. millions of dollars.
“It’s just incredible erosion,” Zoller said.
In the meantime, the library has experienced a transition from print books to e-books, magazines to e-zines. These still cost the same as traditional books, but the money continues to decrease, he added.
Budget cuts in 2013 forced the library to cut staff and hours of operation, Zoller said.
The $ 1.1 million request will help bring these libraries back to their pre-cut schedules.
The nine libraries the Friends hope to help are Argyle, Beaches, Mandarin, Maxville, Murray Hill, San Marco, South Mandarin, West, and Willow Branch. The increased hours allow better access to homework help for students, early literacy programs and community meeting space.
The Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee will discuss the library budget on August 11 at 9 a.m. at City Hall, 117 W. Duval St., in the Council Chamber. Friends of the Library groups ask residents and patrons to contact the committee at 904-630-1404.