What libraries do best is share.
One book is purchased and many people can get to read it. But at heart, we are all local agencies, serving our individual city or county, school or academic institution.
The Florida Multi-type Library Cooperatives, or MLC’s, help us step beyond our local boundaries by helping us share our resources more effectively. The MLC’s are 501©3 non-profit organizations, but their basic operation was supported by the State of Florida because the state saw the benefit of trying to make every item in the state available to every person in the state.
This year, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed funding for the MLC’s. There was no reason given for this veto, and it was totally unexpected. This will mean that these five library support organizations will be struggling to survive for one more year. Some are in deeper trouble than others, but all will have to reduce services.
What will this mean for the Clearwater Libraries? There won’t be any direct impact on what the public sees immediately, but the impact will be felt more by the staff.
Our MLC, the Tampa Bay Library Consortium or TBLC, supplies most of the staff training we have available. With very limited travel to workshops or conferences, TBLC has been providing a rich offering of webinars that keep us up to date on technology and other areas of change. They administer the state-wide delivery system, which allows a book from any library to be dropped off at any other library and returned home. They help us make our database of books and other library materials available for anyone to see across the state and the world, making it possible for people in other locations to borrow from our holdings as we can borrow from theirs. They support reciprocal borrowing arrangements across county lines, so people can use libraries where they work, where they live and where they visit. With the help of the MLC’s, every library is better than we would be standing alone.
If people would like to help, we are asking that they write the Governor to express their support for the MLC’s in next year’s budget. This year, the budget is already set but next year is another opportunity.
Editor's note: Barbara Pickell is the director of the Clearwater Public Library System.