Editorial: In support of library funding


Times Editor 

LAKE BUTLER—When making your selections on your primary ballot at the Primary Election on Tuesday. Aug. 23, don’t forget to select the box approving the continued funding of the Union County Public Library through a ½ mill ad valorem tax.  This is nothing new as Union County voters have been approving it every two years for more than a decade.  This process is called a referendum and is held according to Florida statute, appearing on the ballot every two years.

“Union County voters seem to have a better understanding when seeing the Library Referendum on the ballot every two years,” stated Library Director Mary Brown. “Still, we continue to educate the public that this is not a new tax, just a vote for continued funding for their public library.”

The Union County Public Library has been a staple in the community since its founding in 1988, when the referendum first appeared on the ballot to help fund a new library for the county.  The library first opened on Mar. 1, 1990 in the building that now house the Union County Supervisor of Elections Office on Main St. in Lake Butler.  The building, which was only 1,400 sq. ft. when the library opened, was expanded in 1997 to 3,300 sq. ft.  As the collection grew, as well as the need for space to provide the technology that was becoming increasingly expected from a public library, a new building of 9,000 sq. ft. was built, with construction completed in 2009.  The collection of books and other materials now exceeds 40,000, with thousands more e-books, e-audios, and e-magazine titles available online using one of the library’s public use computers or a personal laptop or tablet via the free Wi-Fi access provided.  There are also numerous online databases available to assist research needs.

Another service provided by the library is found in its variety of programs offered for pre-readers and readers of every age, including weekly Storytime programs for little ones, after school programs, summer events for children of all ages and adult programming.  The library is also the home of the Union County Senior Social Club, where seniors from the community can come and enjoy social and educational presentations and activities designed with their interests and needs in mind.  The library staff are all friendly and well trained, willing and able to assist patrons in finding a book to read that they will enjoy, advising on selecting books for others, providing assistance with computers and providing ideas for sources for research.  The library also offers pleasant spaces where readers can “get away from it all” for a time, enjoying the cool (or warm), quiet environment to just sit and read uninterrupted.  During the recent COVID pandemic, staff members implemented a drive-thru service where patrons could call ahead and request books (or ask for suggestions based on taste and interest) and then drive to the library to pick up their selections without having to get out of their cars.

The money the library receives from this referendum is not all the funding it receives – it takes a combination of the ad valorem tax funds, the State Aid to Libraries grant monies and local donations to keep the doors open.  But where else in the community can people of all ages find welcoming people with genuine smiles, happy to see them and help them find education, edification and/or entertainment all in one place?  These things and more await anyone willing to walk through the doors.  All voters are encouraged to continue supporting this wonderful place by voting “Yes” on their ballot when asked to continue the ad valorem funding, not only for themselves but for the community as well.