A special MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
April 8, 2017
A meeting of the Lake County Board of County Commissioners was advertised for a special session to discuss a long-range strategic plan for Lake County libraries on Saturday, April 8, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. at W.T. Bland Public Library, 1995 N Donnelly St, Mount Dora, Florida. Commissioners present were: Wendy Breeden. Others present were: Angela Harrold, Deputy Clerk.
Commr. Breeden welcomed the residents to the meeting and explained that she has a library background and was over the Lake County Library System for many years. She recognized Ms. Kathy Hoechst, City of Tavares Council Member; Ms. Stephanie Haimes, Director of the W.T. Bland Public Library; and Ms. Cynthia Plesner, the new Director of the Tavares Public Library; and she introduced Mr. Dick Waters, the library consultant for the Lake County long-range library system plan. She stated that Mr. Waters was very well-known in the field and a very accomplished consultant.
Mr. Dick Waters, a consultant working on the new five-year strategic plan for the Lake County library system, thanked everyone for being there and noted that this library branch was a busy one. He explained that they were in a community engagement phase of the process in creating the Lake County five-year, long-range library services master plan which was necessary for the county to obtain state funds and a good planning tool for the library system. He pointed out that residents own the library because they pay the tax dollars that support it, and the Board has a large stake since they allocate those funds. He commented that he has received some demographic data such as age, educational levels, occupation, and income for every library based on a one-mile, three-mile, and five-mile radius around each library. He specified that Lake County has 133,000 households and 90,000 families, and he gave some more details about those households. He explained that there were some demographic predictors that have proven over time to be good barometers of library use, and he specified that the largest predictor was education attainment level, with the highest education level correlating with the highest use of the library; however, he pointed out that income was not considered to be an indicator of library use. He also noted that children living at home and home ownership were also primary factors of library use. He reported that Lake County had a high level of children living at home and of home ownership but did not have a high percentage of residents with higher education such as college degrees. He mentioned that the libraries were scattered throughout the county and that there was a very large range in the size of those libraries. He asked several questions to gauge where the residents lived and which of the Lake County libraries they frequented. He also pointed out that although many predicted that libraries would get smaller due to technology, library buildings have actually increased in size due to the size of the work stations and the fact that technology has resulted in more people using the libraries; also, residents are using libraries more as meeting places. He elaborated that despite predictions of a paperless society, people are using paper more than ever by printing information found on the computer as well as reading more hard copy books as opposed to tablets than they were a year or two ago. He asked those in attendance their opinions on what the W.T. Bland Public Library and the Lake County Library System are doing well.
The residents stated that this library is extensively used for group activities or business meetings at little or no cost to its residents, books can be ordered from other libraries within the county through the interlibrary loan process, the library website contains more in depth databases, the service at this library is excellent, and this library contains a decent collection. There was concern expressed about the school system’s de-emphasis on reading skills and the drop-off in readership of newspapers.
Mr. Waters opined that the reading habit should start before birth, since there is a transfer of knowledge that takes place, and children who are read to have a much larger vocabulary than those who are not. He commented that the summer reading clubs are very beneficial, and some libraries have started winter or year-round reading clubs.
Someone commented that the extensive use of the library’s computers is impressive and that they had recently enhanced the size of the library and increased the amount of computers that were available.
In response to a question Mr. Waters asked about how well the library system addresses the needs of teenagers, who are often an overlooked constituency, people related that the Mt. Dora library has recently acquired furniture and decorations geared toward teenagers for use in the teen room and that there was a program for the teenagers to mentor and read out loud to younger children. It was mentioned that someone donated $3,000 which was used to purchase additional computers for teenagers’ use and that there was a writing program directed towards young people.
Many people indicated that the hours of the library were not adequate. A member of the library staff explained that the hours of operation were driven by staffing, and the library lost 90 hours of staff time during the recession which has not yet been restored. It was indicated that Sunday would be the busiest time if the library was open then. Someone mentioned that some of the other counties have a millage rate just for the libraries, resulting in better funding.
Mr. Waters mentioned that typically voters have voted for a tax increase that was on the ballot for expansion of library services 75 to 80 percent of the time over the last 15 years, although often the largest hurdle would be to get the issue on the ballot. He then asked what other improvements or changes they would like to see at this library or in the county system as a whole. Someone asked specifically for more parking at that library and to reinstate a reciprocal loan agreement with Orange County and look into those types of agreements with the colleges. Another person suggested that they institute a mail order service, although it was pointed out that Lake County had a similar service which was used only for homebound residents. A resident commented that more money was needed to maintain a larger and more current collection as well as more staff to maintain the collection.
Mr. Waters stated that he had discussed with County staff the outsourcing of a collection management program and suggested that a report be run to find out what books have not been checked out in the last two to five years. He noted that a larger collection does not necessarily mean that it is better and strongly opined that a weaning program should be religiously followed.
Commr. Breeden stated that along with losing staff and hours during the recession, all of the libraries lost funding for materials, although prices and processing costs have increased.
Mr. Waters added that most librarians are good at knowing their communities and selecting materials. He mentioned some other alternatives such as leasing and a pay duplicate collection which charges residents a daily charge for the availability of popular materials right away as opposed to being on a waiting list for that item. He commented that the public library provides people with access to the sum total of man’s knowledge and offers people a large range of resources and programs catered to the community. He then brought everyone’s attention to the handout that was provided to them, which was a priority-setting exercise listing eleven services. He requested that the participants list their priorities for either the W.T. Bland Public Library or the library system as a whole by numbering five services they think are the most important starting with a “1” for the most important to a “5.” He then asked them to mark an “X” next to two of the six items that were left to delineate that they do not believe the library should spend any time or money trying to deliver those two services. He mentioned that they are asking every group they meet to do this, and a spreadsheet would be made for each individual group as well as a combined one which would give them a good indication of the priorities of the community. He concluded that those who participated will be contacted by the library when the consultants come back to present the draft report and a PowerPoint presentation. He thanked everyone for their time and assistance.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.
timothy i. sullivan, chairman
NEIL KELLY, CLERK