Nobody on the dais mentioned anything about “fake news.”
But three commissioners stuck to their positions, voting down on Tuesday a proposal that would have provided digital New York Times access to 70,000 library cardholders while eliminating print editions that are now available.
Commissioners Scott Carnahan, Ron Kitchen Jr. and Jimmie T. Smith voted no. Commissioners Jeff Kinnard and Chairman Brian Coleman supported it.
Carnahan made no reference to comments he made at the Oct. 24 board meeting when he called the Times “fake news” and said, “I don’t want the New York Times in this county.”
Instead, he said the decision was purely financial.
“You have needs and you have wants. This is a want,” Carnahan said.
Kitchen also said his decision is a fiscal one — though the proposal would have actually saved about $300 annually by eliminating the more costly print subscription.
Smith suggested the county allow private donations to pay for the $2,700-a-year digital subscription. However, that recommendation did not lead to a vote, though commissioners left open the possibility of the matter coming back for a broader policy discussion and direction on the county providing digital media at the library.
While the issue drew immediate countywide attention following the board’s Oct. 24 meeting, it caught fire nationally two weeks ago when The Washington Post and other media picked up on the story. Commissioners received tens of thousands of emails, with many opposed to what they saw as censorship.
Smith said a New York Times digital is not necessary for the public because information on just about any topic can be found through an online search.
“It’s not an information dirt road, it’s an information highway,” Smith said.
Kitchen said he wanted to avoid “knee jerk reactions” by having more detailed discussion before approving any digital subscriptions.
Kinnard and Coleman, however, said providing digital access over the print edition is not only less expensive, but has the potential to reach far more people.
Kinnard noted that the libraries have been phasing out dated materials, such as VHS tapes, in favor of a more digital offerings. Library cardholders checked out 90,000 e-books in the last fiscal year that ended Oct. 30, he said.
The library advisory board voted last week to support library director Eric Head’s recommendation.
The meeting drew an overflow crowd and more than 40 people spoke with a variety of comments.
Some defended the commissioners and others criticized them. Some lauded The New York Times and others said it has no place in the libraries or should not be funded with tax dollars.
Here are some of those comments:
Richard Tomlinson, Crystal River opposed the taxpayer-funded subscription, but also said: “I do not feel Commissioner Carnahan should have made the remarks he did.”
Michael Fuller, Lecanto, referring to what he believes is the left-leaning Times: “You may as well send the check to the Democratic National Committee.”
Chuck Tomberton, Crystal River, of the Times: “They’re well known for who they are and what they are.”
Cheryl Melton, Citrus Springs: “This is the left going after the right, this is Democrats going after Republicans. This could be a book of nursery rhymes. This is a toe in the door. You let The New York Times in, what’s coming next? What radical publication is coming next?”
April McLaughlin, Pine Ridge, library advisory board member: “I do not support The New York Times. I support the First Amendment, the Constitution. I detest censorship. I support the library system and library management team. But I do not and never will support The New York Times.”
Marion Hansen, Inverness, was critical of past commissioner comments, saying: “You’re not supposed to not be that way. You're supposed to be the eye in our storm. You should be calm. While we’re all going crazy you’re supposed to be the sensible center of our souls. Look at the furor you've brought up. We’re all divided.”
Michelle Beardon, regarding the national attention: “It made us look like cracker county. The New York Times is not fake news. The press is not the enemy of the people.”
Beryl St. Jacques, Beverly Hills: “You were not polite last month, Mr. Carnahan in particular. I feel the citizens of Citrus County were disrespected. you owe us all an apology. “
Bud Hurley, Beverly Hills: “A mistake was made here. It was unnecessary. You seem to have plenty to do without doing the library’s business.”
Dierder Sweeney, Inverness: “You set the framework for this discussion. You made it a First Amendment issue. We are simply following your lead. We have seen the video. You're not fooling anyone.”
Walter Pike, Beverly Hills: “Don't let the bullying tactics being levied at you intimidate you.”
Jim Bowlin, Inverness: “I don't think we should limit any of that information. As for the cost, it’s peanuts.”
Ryan Gill, Pine Ridge: “This board made a political decision over something that needs to be apolitical.”