At least 20% of Floridians don’t have a computer in their homes, according a state report. To Flagler County Library Director Holly Albanese, it stands to reason that in a county with the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates, we also would have one of the highest rates of people without a computer, too.
“We’re overwhelmed with the number of people who come in needing to use the computers,” Albanese said.
That’s evidence, in her view, that the library is still essential, even in the digital age.
“Libraries have adapted," she said. “When computers first came out, people thought libraries were going away. Now look at us.”
The unsinkable Holly Albanese
Because of reduced funding for the library, a newspaper article several years ago called Albanese a captain on a sinking ship. She took it personally.
“I wanted to be the Unsinkable Holly Brown, not the captain of a sinking ship,” she said Thursday, surrounded by stacks of papers in her office. She was in the middle of preparing a presentation that she will soon give to the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners to make the case for more funding for the library. Since she took the helm in 2006, library funding from the county has been cut from $1.5 million to $900,000.
Because of those cuts, the library cut services. First, Albanese closed on Sundays. Then, she cut the Bunnell branch to three days a week. She has cut staff at a time when volunteer hours also dropped dramatically, from 19,618 in 2007 to 15,243 in 2012, or a drop of 22%.
And yet, Albanese has not let the ship sink. She started a passport service at the library, which brought in $46,000 in revenue last year — about double what the state of Florida contributes annually to the library’s budget. People travel from Orlando and Jacksonville because it’s the only place around that does passports on Saturdays.
She also has cut into her magazine budget to make room for eBooks and keep the library up with the times.
It’s clear from speaking with Albanese that she is a diligent manager of the library’s resources. She can be trusted not to waste public money. She is also full of ideas, from starting a café to expanding the walls and renting out space to clearing room for a sheriff’s substation or other government office to help the county save money.
Should we invest in the library?
The question is, should the county grant her wish of restoring her budget back to the $1.5 million it was when she started?
I’m in favor of investing in the library. Restore the funding, with strings attached: Start programs that will help generate revenue, like the passport program. As Albanese said, it’s just like a business: You have to spend money to make money.
Estimated foot traffic is 25,000 per month at the library. But even for those who don’t use the library very often, I believe a lot can be said about a community by the kind of library it has. And I want to live in a city that supports its library.
Currently 6 Responses
- a small usage fee or doanation suggestions for those using the library system would go a long way
Over and over, you speak of a deserted library. I suggest you join the ranks of Library voluteers, and give 3 hours a week, to help put about a 1,000 books back on the shelves each day.
Today, it is recognized that a library is a factor in the economic deveopment of community. As a nation, we have moved to an information-based society.
- Palm Coaster: I have read your posts in various social media outlets and based on your comments it is obvious to me that the County has in some way hurt you and for that I am very sorry. Although you have a right to your comments per the First Amendment, I implore that you think before you respond to some of these posts. It is possible that what you say is not only inaccurate but hurtful to those you attack. You speak about me and the library as if you know what you are saying but if you were a resident that used the library you would not make these statements. The library has more than 25,000 in foot traffic and more than 30,000 in circulation per month which would not lead any well-informed person to speculate that the library is deserted. As for my salary which is slightly less than 70,000 and has been for almost 5 years as a result of the economy, my response to you is this: I have worked in this field more than 25 years, I have been a single mother raising two children and fully understand what it is to be in need. I did not utilize any social services, rather I worked full-time while going to grad school full-time to get two Master's Degrees in order to make a better life for me and my children. I am not ashamed of who I am or where I came from. I am proud of what I have accomplished. Every day I work for the County, the Library and the Public and I do so with perserverance, conviction and knowledge that what I am doing is for the betterment of society. Please take note that I am not only the lowest paid Director in the County I am also the lowest paid Library Director in the area. Putnam Library Director with 20,000 less in population is paid almost $75,000. St. John's County and Volusia County Directors are paid more than $90,000. I would also challenge you to find a more resourceful and entrepreneurial Director that has offset tax dollars through creative reorganization and alternative revenue sources. I invite you to visit the library and learn more about me and the resource you criticize so that if and when you make comments in the future they will at least be well-informed. Respectfully submitted by a humble public servant.
- With a 70,000 a year pay and a crew of paid assistants, of course Mrs Albanese defends her case! Maybe some belt tightening is due.
Exception from special events I see the library deserted on a small tax base county with the highest unemployment rate in Florida and the nation and empty pockets to sustain additional government entities funding.
- Yes, our Library is necessary and we should fund it. But we also need to fund it responsibly. Libraries are evolving and becoming more than just "book warehouses". They are digital and community hubs. Holly Albanese has done a great job thinking outside the box at times and bringing new services. Those supporting her haven't always done such a great job truly showing why we need more funding with clear supporting data and plans.
Some things that would help make their case:
1. Use of social media and networking to better connect with and engage the community to keep them better informed. This is a great way to better promote the mobile access the Library provides and I'm sure few really know about.
2. Online affiliate sales of books with online etailers such as Amazon
3. Plan to Move from Windows-based public PC's to Chromebooks or Chrome Boxes over time. These are far cheaper to maintain and replace if necessary.
4. Local author workshops on ebook self-publishing partnering with the newly established Palm Coast Chapter of Florida Writers Association (Michael King of Clearview press)
5. Future plan to look at obtaining a Book Espresso machine which allows for the printing of "Print On Demand" published books opening up another avenue to sell while supporting local authors who use this publishing format.
6. Definitely provide stats of foot traffic, book lending, ebook lending, late fees, computer use all in comparison of year to year.
- We have a very good library but need more new books. It is often a long wait for a book.
The library is always full of people of all ages and is a real asset to the county.
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All donations from “flocking” directly benefit students to offset costs associated with attending the FPS International Competition this summer.