Library board approves Sunday closures

City asked board to cut $4M in budget


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Libraries in Jacksonville continue to face cutbacks that may force Sunday closures.

With a limited revenue stream, the city asked the Library Board of Trustees to cut more than $4 million for 2013, which ultimately means a reduction in service.

The library board approved a plan Monday that will trim down operating costs. The proposal is to get rid of Sunday service, eliminate 71 full-time positions and reduce hours at all branches.

"The term some members of the library board had used is graceful degradation of the library system," said Harry Reagan, president of Friends of the Jacksonville Public Library. "I'm not sure it's so graceful, but it certainly is degradation."

Many are concerned about the possibility of library closures. Antoniette Depina, who's among them, considers free computer access critical.

"I think they need to find cuts somewhere else and they need to keep the libraries open, because a lot of people like myself can't afford a computer at home, and this is where I come to do my job search every day," Depina said.

In addition to cuts in hours and staff, libraries are considering cutting their collections, the very reason most people come to the library in the first place.

"There's only so much of our budget that we actually have control over, so that makes it difficult, too," said Erin Vance Skinner, chair of the library board.

The idea is to make the library more cost effective, focusing efforts toward children and the expansion of e-services, and ultimately trying to keep libraries alive.

"This is bad. Next year could be as bad or worse," Reagan said. "I guess ultimately we are waiting for the recession to be over, and it's not getting over very soon."

The proposed budget still must be approved by the city.