Library Advisory Board meeting

A crowd gathers Thursday afternoon at the Central Ridge Library as the Citrus County Library Advisory Board meeting prepares to begin.

Citrus County residents continue being sharply divided over the New York Times digital subscription, but the board of volunteers that help oversee the library are not.

In what may be a precursor to Tuesday’s county commission meeting, a standing room crowd of 120 packed into the Central Ridge Library’s community room Thursday evening to offer opinions to the library advisory board.

When the meeting ended more than two hours later, the board voted 7-1 to send a synopsis of the meeting to county commissioners.

Although the vote didn’t include a recommendation, seven members all voiced support for library director Eric Head’s decision to add the digital New York Times subscription at a cost of about $2,700 a year over three years.

Library board members are appointed by the county commission and act in an advisory role.

One board member, Neale Brennan, was pointed in her criticism of county commissioners who, she said, took a simple request and turned into a political issue by stating their support for President Donald Trump and one hailed the Times as “fake news.”

Commissioners passed up an opportunity at the Oct. 24 board meeting to ask questions about the subscription of Head. Instead, commissioners quickly dismissed the request.

“Eric was sitting right there,” Brennan said. “All they had to do is ask him, and they never even asked. It was never meant to be this complicated.”

Library board member Karen Reaves said Head and his staff conduct research before making decisions on which materials to buy.

“We need to have faith in the people we put in charge of the library,” she said.

Board member Terry Morriston agreed.

“This staff does their job professionally,” she said. “I, for one, have a lot of trust in what they do.”

New board member Elaine Kleid, who was sworn in as the meeting started, was the lone opponent. She said the plan may cost the county if the Times subscription, and any others that follow, has technical issues that need repair on the county’s end.

The New York Times issue brought immediate reaction from residents when the Chronicle first wrote about it in the days following the Oct. 24 commission meeting. Last week, it received national attention, first with The Washington Post and followed by Fox News, CBS News, USA Today and a host of other media.

Thursday’s attendees included a reporter from Columbia Journalism Review.

Residents are debating whether the county should add the digital subscription to the print edition it carries in four regional libraries. Two libraries carry just the Sunday Times while two others have the daily edition.

A digital subscription would provide free access to the Times website for 70,000 library card holders.

The library board set Thursday’s special meeting to hear from the public before offering its recommendation to the county commission.

During public comments that lasted 90 minutes, residents echoed much of what has been said in letters to the editor, social media comments and thousands of emails sent to county commissioners.

“It’s just redundant to buy a digital subscription to one paper,” Richard Tomlinson, of Crystal River, said. “This money can be better spent.”

Lucile Tompkins-Davis, of Hernando, had a differing view.

“This is about expansion of services,” she said. “That’s what libraries want to do. Everyone can’t get to the library. It shouldn’t matter what the paper is.”

Deirdre Sweeney blamed county commissioners for setting the tone.

“They made it about the First Amendment,” she said. “They made it political. They set the framework for this discussion.”

Others, though, agreed with Carnahan that the Times shouldn’t be in the libraries.

“The New York Times is the same as Pravda,” Roberta Kahn said.

Paula Stone, of Dunnellon, said the libraries should provide a balanced digital subscription for media.

“I do not want our community to be divided — and it is,” she said.

Head said the library wanted to start with the New York Times and then expand to other newspapers that offer shared digital subscriptions to public libraries, mentioning specifically the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

“You have to start somewhere,” he said. “We want to start slow and grow.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.

(5) comments

BettyC

Citrus County's Library Element of the Comprehensive Plan states "The library upholds the principals of intellectual freedom and the public’s right to know by providing people of all ages with access and guidance to information and collections, which reflect all points of view. " Guess that is fake news too, since the Commissioner's obviously don't uphold their own policy.

Miuke Nelson

'New board member Elaine Kleid, who was sworn in as the meeting started, was the lone opponent. She said the plan may cost the county if the Times subscription, and any others that follow, has technical issues that need repair on the county’s end." That would be a hardware problem that would effect all computer use. Time to burn those terminals and go back to paper.

RBrazeal

And here I thought our county commissioners were really bad politicians, but now I see finger pointing in every direction except where it belongs. Good try. They just don’t seem to grasp the import of what they’ve done and how they’ve make us look. Projecting blame onto our newspaper only underscores their blatant censorship. Too bad but you cannot possibly call their reporting “fake news”.

DaleP

If this digital trial works out the library is considering the Wall Street Journal and USA Today later. The Library folks are shocked by the BOCC Partisan political trump foolishness.

The BOCC had plenty of time to ask questions before they became jackasses.

Mostly thoughtful comments from both sides.

I am cautiously optimistic. Am I a hopeless dreamer?

CitrusCo Citizen

No, not at all, Dale. It's interesting that the library is planning to offer more newspapers in digital form. So this is much ado about nothing, since there will be even more digital subscriptions for the BOCC to worry about funding.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.