I had the chance to advocate for our libraries in November, 2015 at the Bay County Legislative Delegation Public Hearing. The legislators attending included Senator Don Gaetz, Representative Jay Trumbull, and Representative Brad Drake. The public hearing format allowed three minutes for speakers to address the legislators. A transcript of my three-minute address (actually, I ran over by about 15 seconds) is found below:
“Good evening. My name is Charles Mayberry. I am the Executive Director of the Panhandle Library Access Network. Thank you for the chance to speak here tonight. I’m here to encourage your continuing support of our local libraries, and the libraries across the State of Florida. PLAN is a library cooperative composed of forty-two libraries and library systems across the Panhandle. Our libraries in the Bay County area include:
- The Northwest Regional Public Library System, with its Panama City and Panama City Beach locations;
- Florida State University’s Panama City campus library;
- The Lynn Haven Public Library; and,
- Gulf Coast State College library.
Here’s why your support for our libraries is needed…
First, our Libraries are extremely valuable community assets:
A study commissioned by the Florida Department of State in 2013 found that public libraries in Florida provide $10.81 in return for every $1 dollar invested in them.
Second, our Libraries deliver ‘equal opportunity’ public education for everyone:
The library is the only place where any citizen can receive assistance, on request, from a specialist with a Master’s degree — free of charge.
Third, our Libraries provide high-quality education for all age groups:
Free educational experiences, classes, training, and research support is available from ‘cradle to grave’ at our libraries. This begins with education and training for new mothers and continues to vital educational support for K through12 children and for college students. Our libraries address adult career needs and continue further to life issues, personal growth, support for the needs of senior citizens, and much, much more.
Specifically, your support is needed in the upcoming legislative session for the following three items:
State Aid for Libraries funding:
In 2001 this crucial aid for public libraries was funded at $33,400,000. Since 2001, funding has lagged by as much as $10 million per year. Floridians visit their public libraries 78 million times a year and visit them online another 94 million times every year. The full $33 million is badly needed so our libraries can provide our communities and citizens high quality, up-to-date resources and services.
Library Cooperative Grants:
Florida’s five multi-type library cooperatives, of which PLAN is one, are supported by this funding. The cooperatives provide the umbrella under which library costs can be reduced through resource sharing, cooperative purchasing, and shared staff training activities. The cooperatives train more than 16,000 library staff attendees every year. Full funding at $2 million is needed in 2016-17 to continue these vital services.
Public Library Construction Grants:
The Florida Division of Library and Information Services has submitted a request for funding five library construction projects, for $500,000 each (the maximum allowed). These grants will provide for critical infrastructure upgrades, including new technology, renovation, and expansion. The construction grants serve as a stimulus to local governments to provide our citizens with modern libraries capable of supporting 21st century learning.
I would like to thank each of you for the good work that you are doing on behalf of our communities in the Panhandle, and beyond. And, thank you for your continuing support of our libraries, a key asset to our communities here and across the State of Florida.”