Our View: Problems With Library’s Reasons For Cutting Out North Escambia
September 27, 2012
The West Florida Library announced that hours are being cut at library branches across the county — most dramatically in North Escambia.
Part of the cuts will essentially reduce the Century Branch Library to a part-time library sharing employees and resources with the new Molino Library. The Molino Library will open next month, robbing Peter to pay Paul with staff from Century. The Molino Library will be full of used furniture, taken from the Main Branch which is being replaced with a new building and new furniture, perhaps a wise reuse of taxpayer property. Most of the books on the Molino Library shelves will be duplicates from other branches, donations from citizens and books culled away from an upcoming Friends of the Library book sale. The phrase about a red headed stepchild comes to mind.
In tough budget times, sacrifices are necessary. But wait…the library has increased expenses almost 12 percent in a year. According to Escambia County Administrator Randy Oliver, the county has eliminated about 150 positions and cut expenses by 8.6 percent from 2012 and almost 16 percent since 2009. But not the library.
Escambia County contributes about 70 percent of the library’s funding, while the City of Pensacola kicks in the rest. The county, however, has no say in how their millions are spent by the library. So who gets the shaft from the library? The unincorporated areas of North Escambia.
But the library’s management had reasoning why Molino and Century were cut. But fact checking the reason given to the Escambia County Commission Tuesday night finds the reasoning has more holes than a good Swiss cheese.
“But since Century and Molino are not so far apart from each other, we had to reduce Century’s hours in order to open Molino’s hours. So that the staff that works at Century would pick up their hours at the Molino Library when that opened,” Darlene Howell, acting library administrator told the commission.
Libraries are a great place to do a little research before making such a statement before the board that provides 70 percent of your funding.
The library locations in Century and Molino are not “not so far apart from each other”. From Google maps, we found these distances between library branches. For the Century to Molino distance, we double checked that we had the most direct route, and did not even include any dirt roads.
- Century Branch to Molino Branch — 19.7 miles
- Main Library to Tyron Branch — 6.2 miles
- Main Library to Southwest Branch — 14.5 miles
- Main Library to Westside Branch — 1.3 miles
- Tryon Branch to Westside Branch — 7.1 miles
- Tryon Branch to Southwest — 21.2 miles
Looks like several of the libraries are even more “not so far apart from each other”. Don’t take us wrong…this is not a call to shutdown the very valuable Southwest and Tryon branches. They are a reasonable distance from the main library and serve very important roles in their communities. And, from our experiences, the Tryon Branch is a library and employees in which to take pride.
But while we are talking “not so far apart from each other” — what’s the deal with the Westside Library? Which politician’s pet project what this? If it is as necessary as library management says to cut hours and “share resources”, why is there a branch that is currently operating 60 hours per week (compared to a current 40 hours in Century) just 1.3 miles from the full-featured Main Library? Why are we not sharing resources or closing the Westside Branch just 1.3 miles away rather than Century and Molino at 19.7 miles away?
The Westside Library, if something must be cut, is just a short ECAT bus ride away from the Main Library, or a quick 2-3 minute trip by car. We fail to see how that would be as inconvenient as 19.7 miles — about 40-45 minutes and a couple of expensive gallons of gas round trip.
Westside will see hours of operation cut to 44, while Century will be cut to 24 hours per week. Still not seeing the fairness factor.
Oh wait…the Westside Branch is in the City of Pensacola. And Century…well, Century is just that place where the high school was closed, the middle and elementary schools were closed, the tax collector’s office was closed, the health department was closed….hmm, it’s just the Century Branch Library. And I bet those people in Molino won’t notice if we shaft them either…just a bunch of country folks that probably won’t use the library anyway.
The West Florida Library needs to take notice that North Escambia residents are taxpayers too. The West Florida Library need to take notice that 70 percent of their funding is from Escambia County, and note that the Century and Molino communities are part of Escambia County.
If Escambia County is going to fund 70 percent of the library system budget, Escambia County needs a 70 percent say in how the system is operated.