Formal process begun to rename North Sarasota Library in memory of Ed James

County Commission votes unanimously to ask Library Advisory Board to consider recommendation

Ed James. Image from YouTube

On Oct. 23, during the Reports section of the regular Sarasota County Commission meeting, Chair Nancy Detert told her colleagues about a visit she recently had received from representatives of Newtown.

They explained to her the work of a citizens committee that explores ideas for the community, she added. In recent committee discussions, Detert continued, members had proposed renaming the North Sarasota Library in memory of Ed James, who died in mid-March. “I thought they had a great idea,” she said, so she talked with County Administrator Jonathan Lewis about the process to follow in an effort to make that happen.

“Considering Ed James’ deep roots in the community,” she added, “[the citizens committee members] were thinking of a way to honor his career in this county.”

After all, she pointed out, “The North County Library is called the North County Library.” It is not named for a person, she noted, so the board would not be considering replacing one name with another.

James was a lifelong advocate for civil rights in Sarasota. He also spent 46 years as producer and host of Black Almanac, a Sunday morning public affairs program on ABC7.

If the other commissioners were comfortable with that idea, Detert said, she would ask Lewis to convey the proposal to the county’s Library Advisory Board to let it begin the process.

“I think it is certainly an appropriate name to submit,” then-Commissioner Paul Caragiulo responded.

The North Sarasota Library is located on Newtown Boulevard. Image courtesy Sarasota County

“I see agreement,” Detert said as she looked at the other commissioners.

Lewis told the board members he and staff would work through the procedures outlined in the County Code.

On Nov. 27, Sarabeth Kalajian, director of the county’s Libraries and Historical Resources Department, needed only about 3 minutes of board time to gain a unanimous vote to kick off the formal renaming process.

Referencing the visit she had mentioned on Oct. 23, Detert said of the Newtown representatives, “These are people that have lived in our community for decades and decades and are very organized.”

The formal request, included in the board’s packet, was signed by 55 people, including Sarasota City Commissioner Willie Charles Shaw. It asked for the renaming “[i]n support and respect to Edward James, II and his hard work and service in the Newtown Community of Sarasota County.”

“I personally am very excited about this,” Detert added, ‘because it is nice when we can be responsive to the public and their needs and reflect the wishes of their community … I’m glad that these citizens came to us, and our county administrator got on it immediately, personally,” to effect the name change as quickly as possible.

Commissioner Michael Moran made the motion to approve the publication of a notice of intent to name a county property or facility, as described in Section 2-2(d) of the County Code and to convene the Library Advisory Board to act as the Names Selection Committee, to follow the procedure set forth in the County Code. Commissioner Charles Hines seconded it, and the vote was 5-0.

A staff memo Kalajian provided to the commissioners in advance of the Nov. 27 meeting explained that in 2003, the Sarasota County Library Advisory Board reviewed 23 names submitted for consideration for the new library in Newtown. Members “opined that ‘the selection of a geographic name rather than an individual’s name would be more unifying,’” the memo said. The recommendation for “North County Library” was approved on a 5-0 vote, the memo added.

This is part of the County Code section that explains how public buildings may be named. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Nonetheless, the memo continued, four of the 10 county libraries are named “in honor of county residents who either made significant donations to the library or made significant contributions to the community to ensure the financial sustainability of the library.”

For example, the memo pointed out, the new library in Venice will be named in honor of county resident William H. Jervey Jr., and the new facility on the North Port campus of the Suncoast Technical College is named for former County Commissioner and longtime county libraries advocate Shannon Staub.