Category Archives: Advocacy

Friends President Receives City Award

Congratulations to Friends of Mirror Lake Library President Wayne Finley for receiving a City of St. Petersburg 2015 Leisure Services Outstanding Volunteer Award on October 5. A letter from Mika Slaughter Nelson, the Director of the St. Petersburg Library system, includes this: “As President of the Friends of the Library, you have continuously championed library advocacy and fundraising. Your leadership has also yielded great programs, which have involved the community in both literary and visual arts.” Wayne is pictured here with Mirror Lake Community Library Coordinator Sandy Allen.

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Act now to prevent reduction in library funding!

Community libraries are one of the most valuable assets for bringing people together in ways that allow for personal and professional development, improve our quality of life via cultural engagement, and are recognized as a good use of tax revenue.  See “The Social Role of the Library,” American Library Association,

The executive board of the Friends of Mirror Lake Community Library encourage you to join us as a library supporter in urging Florida’s legislative leadership and our local delegates to increase State Aid to libraries, but at a minimum simply maintain State Aid for Public Libraries at the current FY14 level of $27.4 million. Currently, in the state budget both the Fl House and Senate have reduced State Aid by nearly 19%, or $5.1 million. This is leading to an almost complete shutdown in new construction of community libraries across the state, as well as offering Florida’s communities little opportunity to do anything but keep current structures maintained, while our state population continues to grow.

On the final eve of the last day of National Library Week, please consider sending a message advocating on behalf of all libraries, including our own little Mirror Lake Library, by visiting the following site:

Wayne Finley
Friends of Mirror Lake Library

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President’s Message to City Council at First Reading of the City’s FY15 Budget September 4, 2014

Good evening Council Members:

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts on a subject dear to me, the support of our community libraries. My name is Wayne Finley, and I live at 309 16th Ave NE in St. Petersburg. I am here tonight as president of the Friends of Mirror Lake Library.

I have looked at your proposed budget, and I was pleased to see that you have included $43K for enhancements to our libraries for technology upgrades, which I understand includes computers, something that is very important to us at the Mirror Lake Library for we were at the bottom of the pile for wait time to get onto a computer, with our patrons having a typical 1-hr wait to get access.

But I am here to ask you to consider more.

In particular, we need our libraries open longer hours and on Sundays. The library system has been transitioning our libraries from being known as branch libraries to community libraries, a positive step towards recognizing that libraries are transitioning from traditional libraries to community hubs which function as not just learning environments that serve our communities, but representing that they can act as places for citizens to meet, engage and learn, to enter into collaborative and co-working relationships to develop new businesses, to teach early reading skills, to provide safe environments for children and teens, and for all of us to develop new skills to become a better fit for today’s workplace and to find greater civic engagement.

Joining a Friends group is one such example. The Friends of Mirror Lake Library just celebrated its 3rd year as an incorporated entity, and in those three years, we have raised and spent over $10,000 in support of our library and have held events that have brought hundreds of new patrons to it.

We host a quarterly author series, and since 2011 have welcomed 9 authors that have drawn in over 300 hundred folks from throughout our community.

In 2012 we sponsored a plein air art event that saw 20 artists painting among the grounds and providing us with a collection of beautiful new original artwork that showcases our beautiful gem.

And each summer we have sponsored the youth at Mirror Lake Library who participate in the Youth Summer Reading Program.

These are just a few of the ways we have worked to encourage folks within the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods to “Reconnect and Reacquaint” themselves with our library, but it can be difficult due to closing times too early – Mirror Lake only stays open until 7pm two nights a week, and the fact that our community library isn’t open on Sunday when many residents are interested in visiting.

Our libraries have been one of the hardest hit when the last economic downturn hit the nation, and saw some of the deepest cuts – some elements in excess of nearly 60 percent from what had been. Personnel have been cut to the bone, and our infrastructure is in need of rehabilitation.

Our library is in need of a new elevator or an overhaul of the existing one, for it is very slow and very loud, which effects how well patrons in the back can hear during our authors lectures and also gets stuck every now and then with people on it. We need new furniture, and even though there has been an influx of new technology, we still need more computers and the furniture to put them on.

I would like to remind all of you that Mirror Lake Library is St. Petersburg’s original library, and it is only public one for 50 years. The Friends, along with the city and various other folks and groups from within our community are working on a slew of activities to mark our 100th anniversary – in fact we are preparing a calendar of events that will host 100 in 100.

As part of this celebration, the Friends are hosting a fundraising campaign to fulfill our wish list, which we composed in concert with city staff. We will be looking to raise another $10,000 for our Dreaming Big Wish List, and will be asking the community to raise the match in the same manner as it was built, because the Carnegie grant of $17,500 had to be met dollar for dollar by the citizens – and they did. We are appealing to that sense of generosity and concern by asking folks to put up a match if you will to bring our little gem into the 21st century.

I would like to propose to all of you that perhaps the city would like to be engaged in this endeavor, and match the funds raised by the Friends to support this cultural icon of our city.

I also ask that you consider putting a few more thousand dollars into a fund that might help support some of the bigger events we will be hosting throughout 2015.

I will leave you with this tidbit about libraries I share with anyone who will listen. There are those who would say that libraries have become irrelevant what with all of the new technology and other outlets.

What I say to that is libraries may have become irrelevant to those with means; however, to the low-income earning folks throughout our community, libraries are essential for access to free reading materials, free events such as author lectures, and places of learning for their children through our children’s reading programs, especially our out of school time youth summer reading program. Libraries have become the new social service centers that no one knows about.

Well tonight, you now know. Thank you again for your time and I hope you continue to bolster our library system, not just fund it at its current levels.

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Friends November Board Meeting to be Held in City Hall

Dear Friends:

Our normally scheduled monthly board meeting will be held this month in the Community Room of St. Petersburg’s City Hall, 175 5th Street North.

The formal meeting will be used to thank the participants, volunteers, sponsors and city library staff, and to give everyone the chance to see the entire collection in one setting.  A price sheet will be available for all unpurchased works, and we hope you’ll all find something you just cant live without.

Doors will be open at 5pm, and the meeting will be held from 5:30pm to 6:30pm.

This is also our membership drive month, so please renew your memberships as soon as possible either via check made out to the Friends of Mirror Lake Library sent to 280 5th Street North, or you can pay online via paypal at:

Sure hope to see you all there! Light refreshments will be served.

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Library Funding Call to Action

Once again this year, the City finds itself faced with a budget shortfall going into the next fiscal year, starting October 1, 2012.   The bad news was that the shortfall for the City of St, Petersburg for FY13 was originally estimated to be about $15 million; the good news just received recently is that the estimate has been revised downward, based on information from the county Property Appraiser, to a shortfall of approximately $13.5 million.

In response to the impending FY13 budget shortfall, the City, as in years past, has requested that each department prepare a budget reduction package for FY13 based on a possible reduction in each department’s overall budget.  For the St. Petersburg Public Library System (SPPLS), the budget reduction figure that we have been asked to work with is approximately $386,215, or 6.5-7% of the library’s overall budget.  In reviewing this possible reduction, it appears that the budget reduction options for the library system could include all or some combination, of the following:

  • Reduce personnel budget = reduction in vacant staff positions;
  • Reduce the collection budget = reduction in quantity/type of items/materials ordered;
  • Reduce subscription budget = reduction in quantity/type of print subscriptions and electronic databases ordered. 

Coupled with the possibility of the above reductions, it is also important to note that due to the continued decline in revenues, the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative (PPLC) is also receiving less funding.  This could ultimately result in the necessity for individual libraries (SPPLS included) to be charged-back for shared services (automated system, materials delivery) that are currently being provided, via state aid funding and other revenue, through the Cooperative.

As librarians and Friends of Libraries, we know (and see continued evidence) that vibrant, diverse, appropriately staffed, well-equipped libraries are critical to a flourishing, well-informed, educated and engaged community. 

Listed below are just a few of the things we believe are important for our City stakeholders and the public to understand about the value provided by the St. Petersburg Public Library System and the role it plays in helping transform the lives of the residents in our community:

§  Our Libraries Are Where Parents Learn to Be Their Child’s First Teacher – Our library provides parents and caregivers with picture books so that they can read to their young children.  It conducts infant, toddler, and pre-school programs for parents, caregivers and youngsters where parents can learn to be their child’s first teacher, while skilled librarians assist these youngest library patrons by providing pre-emergent and emergent literacy experiences.  Exposing children to books makes a huge difference in their success in school.  Check out this Science Daily article “Books in Home as Important as Parents’ Education in Determining Children’s Education Level.”

§  Help for Job Searchers – One of the biggest challenges facing our community, the state and our nation is getting folks back to work, and our library, like libraries across the country, is at the forefront of that effort. We play a big role in continuously helping job searchers research job opportunities, prepare resumes, submit applications online and brush up on or learn new job skills.  Without adequate funding that provides skilled staff and appropriate, up-to-date equipment, SPPLS is unable to meet the increased demand for these services.  

§  Support for E-Government Services – Our library has embraced the role of helping our community obtain government services over the Internet.  Increasingly, agencies require applicants to do business with them over the web.  State agencies are claiming significant budget savings by sending their clients to us.  Without adequate funding, these vital library services must be significantly reduced.  As state aid funding to public libraries is reduced, funding for SPPLS to adequately provide these E-Government services is shifted to our City.  This is tough, since our City like so many others, is facing serious shortfalls of its own when the community’s demands for these services continue to rise.

§  SPPLS helps our residents learn 21st Century Technology, Information, & Communication Skills – In order to be successful in our information-based economy, our residents need to know how to use technology, find reliable information, and communicate effectively. SPPLS plays a vital role in helping members of our community learn these skills through formal classes, informal interaction and the information in the materials the library provides.  As budgets are reduced, resulting in a reduction in personnel, materials and equipment, SPPLS’ capacity to provide these essential services becomes increasingly limited.

To put some of the information above in perspective, here are a few FY10/11 statistics for the seven branches of SPPLS:

Expenditures per capita:              $24.78 per capita (third from the bottom of the 14 member PPLC libraries)

No. of professional staff:              20.0 FTE

No. of support staff:                     66.5 FTE

Reference questions answered:      455,938

No. of library programs:                    2,032

No. of program attendees:                60,694

Total circulation:                          1,581,182 

Total internet uses:                          384,482

No. library visits:                          1,440,099

Your efforts in helping stakeholders and others understand that our library is at the heart of our community and provides valuable services for residents of all ages, incomes, and ethnic backgrounds are truly invaluable! Through your efforts, and those of our other Friends, we can ensure that now and in the future our library remains a place in our community:

  • where resident of all ages and incomes can visit and enjoy spending their time;
  • where our residents go to hear interesting speakers, attend a variety of programs, discuss new ideas, books, travel and a broad range of topics;
  • where comprehensive databases are available free of charge;
  • where you get help applying for a job;
  • where you stop by and take home a book, CD, DVD or playaway;
  • where you access/download ebooks, make copies and utilize meeting room spaces;
  • where life-long learners pursue their interests and passion;
  • where toddlers and pre-schoolers learn to read and prepare for success in school;
  • where children and parents actively engage in children’s learning;
  • where teens grow and thrive in a safe place to learn, socialize and have fun;
  • where residents get essential government services otherwise unavailable to them;
  • where residents of all ages use technology and join in the technological revolution that changes all of our lives;
  • where residents connect with and participate in their communities.

….and it is also a place:

  • that’s “owned” by everyone in the community;
  • that can be counted on, day after day, to draw people and to contribute to the vibrancy and health of the City of St. Petersburg!

Please note: FY13’s budget process is very much a work in progress.  Last Thursday, City Council held a budget workshop to review and discuss possible recurring revenue options, one of which is a mileage increase. Your support and feedback regarding City Councils’and the Mayor’s consideration of new, recurring revenue options such as a mileage increase in order to maintain vital City services, including library services, is critical for them to hear! 

Thank you for attending the upcoming public events, thank you for your advocacy and feedback to our stakeholders and thank you for helping to ensure that our public library system remains a vital and vibrant part of our community!

Best regards,


Laurel Gustafson

Laurel Gustafson, Library Director
St. Petersburg Public Library System
280 Fifth Street No.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

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