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Library director gets thumbs-up for trying

Published January 9, 2007


Palm Harbor Library director Gene Coppola understands that the mission of a public library is to serve the public.

So he has extended the library's hours to make it easier for the public to use the library.

On Jan. 2, the library started opening at 9 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Library workers often found people waiting in line when they opened the doors at 10 a.m., so Coppola decided the earlier hours were needed.

He also has acknowledged that the library, on Nebraska Avenue west of U.S. 19, needs to be open until 9 at night - it now closes at 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday - and should be open on Sunday. Those extended hours are among Coppola's goals for the library he has served as director since 2000.

It isn't easy. Last March, Palm Harbor residents voted against an increase in the small tax they pay to fund their public library. The tax would have funded a later closing on weeknights as well as Sunday hours. Those extensions may come more slowly now, if at all.

The library also will remain crowded; the proposed tax increase would have paid for an expansion of the undersized facility.

Coppola is to be commended for finding creative ways to expand services despite the voters' decision.

Teens lead by example

Two local 16-year-olds are gaining attention for their leadership positions - not in their schools, but in their communities. If only more adults were half as concerned as these two young people.

Matthew Poling, a junior at East Lake High School, was until recently "senior executive" for the Friends of Brooker Creek Preserve. His advocacy work on behalf of the 8,500-acre preserve won him the 2006 Outstanding Environmental Contribution award from the Pinellas chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society.

Poling led the Friends organization to a new level of visibility and worked tirelessly as a volunteer to save preserve lands from development.

He was organized, articulate and unafraid, whether speaking to government boards or conducting television interviews.

Another teen who has garnered recent attention is Jesse Sherman, a junior at Calvary Christian High School.

Sherman is one of 11 members of Clearwater's budget task force. The appointed group is studying the city budget in weekly meetings and looking for ways to spend money more efficiently. Sherman is right there along with the adults on the board, motivated by a desire to improve the community, increase his understanding of government operations, and prepare for his goal: to run for office one day.

Those who keep a close eye on local governments may have noticed lately that more young people seem to be involved in the business of government.

Clearwater, Pinellas County and other local governments have made an effort to involve teens by creating special boards or programs for them, or by appointing them to boards or committees that have adult members.

The teens typically come across as smart, well-spoken, experienced at volunteering, and interested in taking on tasks that have impact.

They will make excellent candidates for office someday.

[Last modified January 9, 2007, 00:00:00]

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