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Jacksonville Public Libraries Face $3.5 Million in Cuts

4:23 PM, Sep 12, 2011   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Once a week, Jayne Runnels heads to the Murray Hill library.  She comes here mostly for books and DVDs. 

"Every now and then if the computer is out at home, it's handy to have a computer at the library," said Runnels.

The Murray Hill branch, along with the 20 others in the city of Jacksonville, may have their hours slashed, be closed on Mondays and have their staff cut too.

It's all part of budget cuts that went from an expected $900,000 to now more than $3 million.

"I was a little surprised, a little upset," said Runnels.

The move was unexpected and now the community is fighting back to keep the doors to all of the libraries open.

"Find other funds available to balance the budget and not hurt the city's efforts of literacy and reading," said Bill Brinton, a member of the group Save Jacksonville Public Libraries.

Brinton said he understands cuts need to be made, and he's okay with the original $900,000 plan because library hours would not be affected with it.

But three million, he said, is not good for Jacksonville.

"My biggest concern is how we as a community are going to be viewed by people that look at Jacksonville as a place to live.  The quality of life, of education. We talk the talk but we don't walk the walk," said Brinton.

Save Jacksonville Public Libraries protested in front of the San Marco Library Monday evening.

Brinton and the group believes other projects, like road surfacing plans, can be postponed in order to save money, save the libraries and save kids.

"I'm a retired teacher; I know lots of my students, their only access to a computer was the public library," said Runnels.

Brinton said she is right.  He believes 93 percent of kids in this area rely on the Murray Hill library computers to do their school work.

"We have to take care of our kids; they have to be educated. They are our future," said Runnels.

We asked the city for a comment. The library folks were in budget meetings and couldn't talk.

The Mayor's office told us it presented a balanced budget; now it's in the hands of the city council.

City council will meet on the issue tomorrow.

Save Jacksonville Public Libraries plans to be at the council meeting too.

First Coast News

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