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Director envisions library card for all

The county's libraries provide information for residents ranging from infants to seniors, all for a reasonable price - free.

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 8, 2001

Director of Library Services Flossie Benton Rogers has served in various positions during her 13 years with the Citrus County Library System. She assumed her current role in March 2000.

Citrus County's library system originally was part of the Central Florida Regional Library System, which was based in Ocala and served Citrus, Marion and Levy counties. In August 1987, Citrus decided to break away and operate on its own as of Oct. 1 of that year.

The Coastal Region and Lakes Region libraries were dedicated in November 1987. In December 1995, the 20,000-square-foot Central Ridge Library opened. It houses the administrative offices for the library system and ADA materials for use by the disabled.

Rogers took over a growing system and continues to guide its growth. "It's very fascinating," she said, noting that she and her staff work together to make choices that will "affect the system in a positive way."

She took a few minutes recently to answer some of Citrus Times community news coordinator Mary Ann Koslasky's questions about the library system and National Library week, which was last week.

QUESTION: How are the libraries currently funded?

ANSWER: Besides tax money and impact fees, we also get funds from the State Aid For Libraries Grant. The amount is decided yearly by the Legislature based on how much is spent locally and then they decide on a match of money which can be up to 25 cents on a dollar. But we usually get about 12 cents. We also depend on donations from the Friends of the Library and donations from the public.

Q: Some people feel that tax dollars could be better spent on medical programs for children, improving schools and other beneficial programs. How would you answer that?

A: The public library is one of the few institutions that provides education for all ages. We provide services . . . from infants to senior citizens and where else can you find that? Where else can you go to get the information free of charge? You can also find a universe of information from the Internet, but how do you know what the authoritative information is? That's what the librarian is there for.

Q: Are our county libraries receiving enough funds to meet the needs of a growing population?

A: We can always use more money! And that's why such things as the library's Partnership Fund is so critical for us . . . (it enables) corporate-type gift-giving and even charitable gift-giving by individuals. All the donations that we receive are very, very much needed. And the growth of the economy always helps out . . . we flourish when the county flourishes.

Q: With so much use of the Internet are libraries really relevant today?

A: Yes, because who is going to show you what information is really authoritative and written by individuals and organizations who have studied . . . and know what they're doing. Sometimes it's very difficult to look on there and differentiate. The librarians who have investigated . . . and applied their searching skills . . . really provide value to the consumer, to the public.

Q: How can you make libraries relevant to our young people?

A: I believe that involving young people in our planning is one way. And that is something we've been working on for the last couple of years. We have a Teen Council that gives us information on the programs that they think we ought to be providing and in fact they have even helped us in setting up programs that were relevant to them. We need to ask them and have that mechanism there for them to tell us. They're also very savvy with technology and . . . very helpful to have around.

Q: This year's National Library Week theme was "@ your library" . . . is that a ploy to make the libraries seem more hip?

A: I think it's a communication tool to catch people's attention so that maybe they can stop for a minute . . . and realize the value of the library . . . but you've got to get their attention first . . . to get them to stop just for the blink of an eye and think "Oh, yes. My library. I like my library,' then you achieved something. I think that was a good slogan for the American Library Association to come up with.

Q: What are the challenges you see facing libraries today?

A: I think that trying to make your dollars stretch farther is a challenge. And being creative in the approach to providing resource information. Resource sharing is something that we have delved more into in recent times. And there's the e-book collection . . . a number of libraries in central Florida came together to purchase those materials. That's the kind of things that libraries have to look into these days in order to provide the tools that people have always expected and to stay on the edge of technology.

Q: In 10 years, where do you see our library system and what advances would you like to see?

A: My dream would be for everyone in Citrus County to have a library card and to utilize the library. And as we move forward I can see how you wouldn't necessarily come into the library to do that. One of the goals for the next year or so is to have people be able to access our informational data bases from home.

Q: How can the general public and/or businesses help to reach those goals?

A: One way would be for people who have a particular need to let us know what that need is and let us see if we can match the need with a resource. We're very interested in providing resources for businesses . . . and having them tell us what they need.

Q: Do librarians still say "shh!!"

A: (Big laugh.) Not too much anymore. I haven't seen that in a while.

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