Escambia County Pensacola Politics

Pensacola and Escambia County have never really been pro-library

October 9, 2012

Most communities take pride in their public libraries. There are seen in many cities as facilities that transform communities and the great equalizer by making books available to all people. This community has always lacked a commitment to those ideals.

It was 1957 when Lucy Tryon founded Pensacola’s first public library building at 200 W. Gregory St. Eventually a small branch was opened in her name at Pensacola Junior College. That was it.

For years, the West Florida Regional Library System ranked at or near the bottom among the state’s library systems in amount per citizen spent on library materials and facilities; total square feet of library space; percent of residents with library cards; and volumes on the shelves per capita; and other categories.

A 1974 study concluded that the main branch in downtown Pensacola was woeful. Again in 1990, a study said the local library’s annual operating budget should be $20 per capita (double its current amount). The next year, the county commission debated whether to pull all funding from the system. Santa Rosa County would eventually withdraw from the two-county system

In 2001, a study recommended about $43 million in capital improvements and the budget should be about $10 million annually to bring the system up to par by 2020—the budget for 2012-13 is $5.38 million.

In March 2005, the Pensacola City Council approved a three-year strategic plan that would develop two new branch libraries. One would be a $3.9 million new Tryon Branch in northeast Pensacola, and the other would be a branch on the city’s west side. In addition, the city recommended increasing services, such as hiring a children’s librarian for each branch, establishing a mobile computer lab and expanding bookmobile services. The new Tryon Branch was built and the downtown branch is being expanded. Instead of a true west side branch, the city has a small storefront branch on Cervantes. The mobile computer lab and bookmobile services never happened.

Meanwhile the county built the Southwest Branch Library near Perdido Key and has a branch in Century.

In 2007, the county tried to swap the city ECAT for the library system. The commissioners threatened to stop all funding for the library–of which it was paying 70 percent. City council wanted none of it. County kept funding the libraries, but the city eventually cut funding for ECAT.

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  • joe October 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    Whether Luke McCoy uses them or not libraries are an important asset to our community. When municipalities decide to build these very nice facilities they should also budget the funding. If they built them in an efficient manner instead of architecturally pleasing, (similar to the architect who built the model for santa rosa county schools) costs would be lower and more efficient.

  • chip chism October 10, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    luke mccoy is not dead…he just looks and smells that way….

  • Ames October 10, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    Take a look at this library. It’s at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. Why is the business mecca build around this library?
    Plan to spend the day.

  • What a Joke October 10, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    I think City taxpayers get great value from the libraries. Not so much paying twice for bus service or paying for the county’s Sheriff & his deputies, or the county’s fire service, their code enforcement, etc.

  • Betty McAlpin October 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Hi Henry, Pensapedia had Luke passing away this year but now I see there is no longer a death date. Probably just a prankster, their WASPO entry has been tampered with from time to time as well. I would not be surprised to learn next that Luke is alive and well and living in another state under the name of Doris. Someone actually said they saw Luke/Doris at a Blue Wahoos game this past summer so I guess he/she is still alive.

  • L. Laird October 10, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Commissioner Kevin White just invited me to attend the RIBBON CUTTING CEREMONY, for the new “MOLINO COMMUNITY COMPEX”… Wed Oct 17 @ 11am….There will be a new Library in this New/rehab Molino School…but Kevin and the other Commissioners Did NOT approve any funding for this new Library to Buy Books……So, I guess said Library will be with out books …but Since Kevin thinks Libraries are not worth $$$$ …so be it…And if the readers are wondering where old Molino School is??? Don’t worry, nobody else knows where it is either….I guess Kevin was hoping it was going to be named after him, like that other two and half million $$$ building out someplace called Wedgewood for Commissioner Young….Maybe that is why Commissioner White thanks Libraries are Stupide????

  • Henry October 10, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    “The late Luke McCoy used to rail against any public funding of the library system whatsoever.”

    Betty, it’s my understanding that Luke is still, unfortunately, with us. If you have information to the contrary, please share…I could use some cheering up.

  • Betty McAlpin October 10, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Ah, the library argument again. The late Luke McCoy used to rail against any public funding of the library system whatsoever. He and his political ilk loved to say that Pensacola has no shortage of bookstores so who needs a library? Sadly, that sentiment seems to have caught on with a lot of citizens and our esteemed County Commission.

    Ignoring the fact that not every household can afford weekly or monthly trips to Barnes and Noble; the public library system in the 21st Century has become much more than a repository of printed material. It provides the only opportunity for thousands of our citizens to access a modern computer work station and the internet.

    Much is made of the lack of progress in our area, compared with the large and successful urban areas to our immediate east and west. Might I suggest one reason is the seeming hatred of anything smacking of progress, technology and educational opportunities? If I were a CEO from out of state looking to relocate and I saw the commissioners comments about the worth of the library system, I would put a big red X over Pensacola and look elsewhere.

  • CJ Lewis October 10, 2012 at 9:07 am

    There’s plenty of blame to go around for past and present elected and appointed officials. However, given the curent dysfunctional state of the city government, the leadership for improving the countywide so-called “West Florida Regional” Library System is going to have to come from the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners. They can fix this mess if they have the political will.

    The status quo is a non-option. Escambia County could go it alone with its own library system outside city limits. However, a more practial option is staring us in the face over in Santa Rosa County. They know how to run a countywide library system. It can be done. Escambia County should do the same.

    City taxpayers would cheer no longer taxed twice to pay for the library system. The freed-up $1.5 million or so now spent by the city can be far better spent putting more police officers on the street, eliminating the mold ingested by our professional firefighters in Fire Station #3, putting in sidewalks where none exist, etc.