Westside Branch Library Existence In Question

By: Wesley Martin
Last Thursday, October 18, John Jerralds, City of Pensacola Council member (District 5) hosted a town hall forum to discuss the possible closing and/or relocation of the West Florida Public Library’s Westside Branch.
City of Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward was absent at Thursday’s forum due to a scheduling conflict.
According to Jerralds, based on the Library branches’ utilization, he felt it was imperative to have community input regarding this issue.
“I think it’s important that we do what is called ‘citizen participation’ and hear from the residents and the people who actually use that facility before we make a hasty decision,” Jerralds said.
Jerralds, who is up for reelection November 6, said he has received many phone calls from citizens objecting to closing the Westside Branch.
“What we’re dealing with are your tax dollars and you have a right to have an opinion and to let us know what it is,” Jerralds said.
According to Westside Branch records, during the month of March, foot traffic alone was 9,589. Jerralds, who provided copies of the report to community members, stated the Westside Branch is utilized more than the “newer” and “state of the art” library branches throughout the rest of Escambia County.
During Thursday’s forum, there were also allegations of funds (1.5 million) being misappropriated to fund a proposed library branch slated to be built at Legion field. Many present at the meeting believed the location wouldn’t best serve community needs. One main gripe of the proposed library at Legion field is the tentative structure’s close proximity to the downtown location.  Another – parents of young children wouldn’t feel safe letting them cross Cervantes street.
On Thursday, a West Florida Public Library employee stated that 70 percent of the Library System’s funding comes from the county, while the city only contributes 30 percent.
Gerald Wingate, District 5 Pensacola City Council candidate, stated that neighborhood communities like Brownsville, Morris and Attucks Court need to lobby more for integral resources like the library branch.
“Over in this area we need a library, Wingate said. “We need to be working on educating our people and getting them to where they’re on the same reading levels and math levels as everyone else.”
“Some of those people don’t even have a car,” Wingate continued, speaking on users of the library branch. “This is an asset. We should be doing is trying to market the library to get some art programs in there … things to help our kids.”

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