Words Fail Them

The Florida Library Association says Florida lags in the nation in public libraries and books. They say with more people in the state should come more money.

Charlie Parker of the Tampa Bay Library Consortium says, "Last year we had something like 68 million Floridians come through their library doors. They borrowed about 93 million books. This is a huge success and it's because of the work that locals have done, and we need the state to do their part too."

State funding has declined from 10.5 cents for every local dollar to 6.18 cents. The Florida Library Association gathered at the Capitol Thursday to ask legislators for more.

Hellen Moeller, director of the Leon County Public Library, says, "We've struggled and struggled to meet the nation average, and we can't quite get there. Leon County keeps putting in more and more money, and they're helping us as best they can. In the past, the state would always match the money."

The association says extra funding is especially crucial in rural counties such as Calhoun County, where the library director says the literacy rate is 29 percent.

Rita Maupin, the director of the Calhoun County Public Library, says, "The monies we get from the Legislature keep our doors open. We pay salaries with them; we buy books with the transportation. We provide our literacy programs."

An incentive program allows a state match of up to 25 cents for every dollar. Florida librarians say they hope to one day get a little closer to that number.

Florida ranks 47 in the nation for books in public libraries per capita with 1.8 and Georgia ranks 44 with 1.9 books per capita.