Funds raised for ebooks and audiobooks
Late last year and early this year, as the Sarasota County commissioners prepared to pore over department recommendations for paring their budget for the 2019 fiscal year, a number of people pleaded with them to spare the county’s libraries. If anything, members of the public stressed, the library system needs more money, especially for collections.
Yet, among the long list of department proposals the commission approved on Jan. 31 was a $156,075 reduction in funding for books and other collection resources for the Libraries and Historical Resources Department.
During the board’s regular meeting on June 13, the Library Foundation for Sarasota County came to the rescue. Members presented a check to the County Commission for $212,184 to pay for digital books and audiobooks.
“This is a very, very big deal,” Commissioner Alan Maio said in recognizing the group, eliciting applause from the numerous Foundation members and other library supporters in the Commission Chambers in downtown Sarasota.
Maio explained that the Library Foundation is a private, not-for-profit organization that “plays a pivotal role in helping to support our libraries and has done a tremendous job throughout the years.”
When the Foundation held its 2017 retreat, he continued, Sarabeth Kalajian, director of the county’s Department of Libraries and Historical Resources, discussed the fact “that our libraries are challenged to meet the growing demand for digital resources, such as ebooks and audiobooks,” Maio continued. That situation, he noted, had resulted in “very long waiting times, especially for bestsellers and titles that appear on school reading lists.”
The Foundation set a goal of raising $200,000, Maio said, which would enable the Libraries and Historical Resources Department to purchase more than 8,000 digital resources for the collection.
More than 250 people contributed to the campaign, he added, and more proceeds were raised from a Foundation luncheon this year during which New York Times bestselling author James Patterson was the featured speaker. Additionally, the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation contributed $50,000 to the cause, and, during the Giving Challenge this spring, the Foundation received another $17,515. That $200,000 goal was exceeded in seven months, Maio pointed out.
“Our library system is the best in the entire country and continues to grow,” he said, prompting more applause and a few cheers from audience members.
Isabel Norton, president of the Foundation, told the commissioners, “We’re happy to have you have the money. … We’re delighted to present this check.”
Individuals, businesses and foundations other than the Selby Foundation contributed to the cause, Norton noted. “Every one of our directors donated to this campaign and worked hard to connect to other donors,” she said.
Moreover, a new community advocacy group of the Foundation is working “tirelessly for adequate and sustained funding” for the county’s 10 libraries, Norton added. “Tip of the hat to everybody in this room.”
Kalajian expressed her appreciation to the Foundation and all the contributors. What she especially appreciates, Kalajian noted, is that the Foundation members focus “on what they know will make the biggest impact to our library users.”
Following the presentation, Chair Nancy Detert expressed her gratitude, as well to the contributors, as well. “A keystone of a community is to have a free public library,” Detert said. “It’s a building block for our community, and you folks have done a marvelous job.”
She added that she recognized many of the people in the audience as volunteers for a variety of community initiatives, calling them “good public servants.”
The first official meeting of the Library Foundation for Sarasota county was held on April 4, 2011, the organization’s website notes. Its mission “is to secure the future of our libraries as an indispensible community resource.”