The Sarasota County Commission approved a grant of $20,000 in February for the Longboat Library but made it clear that it was a one-time deal.
Now, the Longboat Library is looking for ways to work with the Sarasota County Library System. But, in many ways, the county is limited in the extent that it can support the non-profit, all-volunteer library because it charges for membership.
It’s a point that Sarabeth Kalajian, director of the county library system, stressed last month when the Sarasota County Board of Commissioners and the Longboat Key Town Commission held a joint meeting that included discussion about library services.
The library system’s state aid is predicated on the point that libraries are free, Kalajian said at the Oct. 1 meeting.
Sarasota County Public Information Officer Curt Preisser, Collection Development Librarian Susan Cortright and Community Libraries Supervisor Alexce Douville attended the Longboat Library’s Monday, Nov. 5 board meeting for the purpose of listening to members. Kalajian was out of town but dialed into the meeting.
Longboat Library board members suggested ways of promoting their library in the community, such as placing brochures at the county library. But even that wouldn’t be possible.
Because Longboat Library services aren’t free, the county can’t place its brochures in its library.
Kalajian described services that are available with a Sarasota County library card, such as downloadable eBooks and access learning tools that residents can access without leaving their homes and suggested materials for the Longboat Library that would list those services.
“That’s good, but it sounds like we’re helping you,” one Longboat Library board member said.
Kalajian suggested what could be a common goal for the Longboat Library and the county library system: improving the level of library service for Key residents.
After Kalajian asked about areas for improvements, Longboat Library President Patrice Greene said that many members have asked recently if the library carries eBooks.
Kalajian suggested that the county could send a librarian to the Longboat Library for a session that would help volunteers better understand computer usage.
County officials also discussed the possibility of sharing programming with the Longboat Library.
Library board member Hazel Steskal told the Longboat Observer that the group has looked at options to save on books in the past, such as purchasing books with the county, but ultimately determined that such an arrangement wouldn’t be feasible.
The library also approached the town last year about the possibility of saving on insurance costs by putting its policy under the town’s umbrella but learned that the insurance carrier wouldn’t allow it because the town and library are separate entities.
The Longboat Library has an annual budget of approximately $28,000. The town owns the library building and land, but the library pays for maintenance, repairs and insurance.