INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - Now that it appears that City Manager Al Grieshaber has stopped job hunting and settled in to work at City Hall, the question of a library is roiling Indian Rocks Beach.
With a population of about 5,000 (greatly expanded in the winter months by perhaps 50 percent) IRB would sensibly be characterized as a village; the term "city" certainly stretches a definition.
Small as it is, though, IRB wants to run with the big dogs, and part of that image is to have its own library.
The City Commission is weighing the prospects now. Opinion among city residents is divided.
There are libraries and there are libraries.
One approach is that of Mayor Bill Ockunzzi. "IRB's library is a very busy place," he says. "Perhaps the most used recreational service provided and supported by IRB. Our library is more of a community center and we need to address the value and benefit of that aspect."
As a gathering place, a place to bring folks together, like a community center, that idea perhaps makes sense. The essence of a library is quietude but still, Ockunzzi says, "Perhaps we need to build upon that concept in addition to loaning books, providing programs for children and young adults, computer connections for tourists."
On the other hand, Victor Wood, a busy civic figure and an unsuccessful candidate for mayor in March's election, says, "The sound of a new library in IRB has a pleasant ring to it, until rational people realize that not enough data has been gathered to make a business judgement on this project. I would suggest that the commission take the emotion out of any decision- take time, gather facts, then put it on the ballot."
Wood feels the issue must be a referendum because "of the initial capital costs and annual recurring operating costs." But Wood does not want to be hasty. He thinks the vote should take place next March, not November so that enough information can be given to voters.
Indian Rocks Beach already has a library - a very small library, thus the idea that there are libraries and there are libraries.
Size (the number of materials) is always a consideration. A library that is too small is silly and a waste of money. Many observers have pointed out that two state of the art libraries (Clearwater and Largo) are very close.
If IRB did have a library of size that counts and thus eligible for recognition by the state and the library cooperative in Pinellas County, users in IRB could obtain books and other materials from brother libraries in the system.
Ockunzzi, always sensible and prudent, thinks rushing the issue to referendum is premature. "We have no idea where, when, if, or how a library expansion might be proposed, built, funded or how much of the funding would or could come from non IRB funding."
Like Wood, Ockunzzi thinks any referendum would better wait until next March so that voters "would have solid facts, and, perhaps a specific proposal to consider."
As a general argument in favor of a library, Ockunzzi says, "Communities are more than sticks and bricks. The library, art center, museum, festivals, parks, etc. are part of the fabric of our community. We don't really need any of them, but our community would be of much less quality without any of them."
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