Library supporters seek 26K petitioners

Group wants to change way libraries are funded

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Volunteers from the group Save Our Libraries were busy Tuesday at polling places to get signatures on a petition to create a separate library tax district in Duval County.

The group is seeking 26,000 signatures for the petition to qualify for a referendum on a future ballot.

Under the proposal, the libraries in Jacksonville would still be publicly funded by tax dollars, but the money would be handled by a separate governing board made up of city and school leaders. Organizers say it would mean the library wouldn't have to compete for dollars with police and firefighters.

The petition comes while there are considerations to trim $4 million from the library budget, eliminate 71 full-time positions and reduce hours.

Volunteer Margaret Smith, of Friends of the Jacksonville Public Library, says the petition is a hard proposal to explain.

"Yeah, it is a little bit, because when you start talking about taxes and millage, sometimes people's eyes glaze over," Smith said.

The group used Election Day to ask for signatures because members said it's the easiest way to find eligible voters.

"We're going to hit the November election, the general election very hard," Smith said. "We're going to try and have people at all of the polling places."

Organizers say other counties like Orange and Alachua have found success using separate library tax districts. Joanne Thompson took a stack of petitions home Tuesday to get signed.

"I'm going to take these around to my neighbors and have them sign them," Thompson said. "I have a small stack here. I can always come back and get more."

If the group is able to get its 26,000 signatures, the earliest it can get the straw ballot put to voters is in the general election in November 2014.

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