The Sarasota County Library system this spring was named the 2012 Library of the Year by the Florida Library Association.
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 County 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 also will raise funds for system-wide needs now and for an endowment to fund future needs.
I was surprised to learn that 74% 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 system 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%. 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, the 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 system-wide excellence by supporting literacy for all ages, innovations and technological 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 its efforts.
Shannon Staub is president of the Library Foundation for Sarasota County.
To learn more or to support the new Library Foundation for Sarasota County, visit www.sarasotalibraryfoundation.org or contact Staub at info@sarasotalibraryfoundation or call 941-228-6274.