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Letter to the Editor

Library is not the priority that residents want most

  • By
  • | 8:00 a.m. March 27, 2024
  • Longboat Key
  • Opinion
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We attended both Sarasota County library sessions and are compelled to offer our observations.

The town’s county partner is in the “modern” library business and does an excellent job at the Selby Library downtown and with its regional libraries.  

Its understandable mission was evident by its inadequate response to the town residents’ input of adding needed community meeting space and for Education Center programming and space.

This is not surprising. The county is focused, of course, on planning for its 8,000-square-foot “modern” library concept, which is suited to a semi-urban population of all ages. 

Longboat Key demographics are 82% over the age of 60 and 55% over 70, based on 2022 Census Reporter. Clearly, the “modern” library, including space for youngsters to work on ideas, is not useful to a seniors population.

Also, the 12,000-square-foot parcel available in the Town Center Green is simply not large enough for the 8,000-square-foot “modern” library and fulfilling residents’ requested Community and Education Center meeting space “enhancements.”

It is crystal clear that based on a relatively recent town resident survey in 2022 and the recent Observer online survey that there are many different opinions. However, there is a clear majority opinion that sets the top priorities for community center meeting space and adult education meeting facility.

So what to do in listening to and acting on town resident priorities?  

The town should build the needed community meeting and education center. In addition, include a small library book distribution and return counter for books ordered on the county library website for periodic delivery and pick up at the community center facility.

This service is available and would save the county money.

There is another popular option to keep the Town Center Green open green space — to provide adequate space for unlimited fun and high-use events, such as seasonal holiday events, music festivals, art shows, craft shows, car shows, boat shows, the weekly marketplace, concerts, plays, charity events, etc. and adequate space for mobile food and beverage offerings.

Repurpose the existing Longboat Key Library site next to Town Hall for community meeting and education space.

Last but not least, the town and county should always be close partners in protecting and providing services to residents. However, this library “partnership” is fundamentally and foundationally at cross purposes, considering Longboat residents’ “spoken” and researched priority needs versus a relatively large “modern” library. Town Center available land is limited.

Good partnerships must have common goals and objectives;  resident feedback priorities say we don’t.

Given the large tax contribution Sarasota County receives from half of Longboat Key, there should be a contribution from the county to help build our Community and Education Center and Library book distribution facility.

Finally, our Town Center should be totally owned and controlled by the town of Longboat Key for obvious reasons.

Unfortunately, the Town Commission is on track to approve a Sarasota County Library on Longboat that a Longboat Key citizens have not asked for; and commissioners are putting it in the wrong place for the wrong reasons.

This is mismanagement. A county “modern” library is not at the top of Longboat Key residents’ priority list.

— Bob and Shannon Gault, Longboat Key


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