December 4, 2014
A community luncheon was held in Dowling Park to kick off the fundraising effort for the proposed new Suwannee River Regional Library (SRRL) branch in Dowling Park. The library will be open to the public and will be a great benefit to those living in the western part of the county, as the closest public library is located roughly 18 miles away, in Live Oak.
Eight years ago, library officials and Suwannee County’s Board of County Commissioners approached Advent Christian Village administration and asked them to partner with the county on the library. ACV agreed to lease a parcel of land for the library, seeing it as another way to be of service to the community.
Director of the Live Oak branch of the SRRL, Betty Lawrence expressed appreciation to all those who have supported the library effort and spoke about an often overlooked benefit of libraries. It is a safe and positive environment where children can wait for their parents to pick them up after work.
Commissioner for District 3, Ricky Gamble, echoed his appreciation to all supporters of the library and to Advent Christian Village for its partnership.
School Board Chair, Jerry Taylor, outlined other objective reasons why this library is needed. The population of western Suwannee County is 5,913. Almost 1,500 of those citizens are younger than 18 and 1,007 of them are school-age. Studies have proven that disadvantaged students in the first grade have a vocabulary that is approximately half that of an advantaged student (2,900 and 5,800, respectively). Although parents are the most important reading role models for young people, only one in five parents easily finds the opportunity to read to their children. Ten- to 16-year-olds who read for pleasure do better in school. In fact, reading for pleasure is more important for a child’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education.
How does this affect Suwannee County? While the cost of operating the library is projected to be $75,000 per year, it is estimated that the cost of illiteracy or low literacy in the US is over $200 billion per year. And every dollar invested in adult literacy yields $7.14 in return. Making a library branch more accessible and within close proximity to the 1,007 school children living in the western part of the county will benefit Suwannee County as a whole for many years to come.
Ronnie Poole and Danny Hales led the fundraising challenge. They explained that now that the state of Florida has approved the funding needed to get the project underway, it is up to Suwannee County to decide whether the Dowling Park library branch will be built. The state grant covers $500,000, and knowing that the project was coming, the SRRL has reserved another $500,000, leaving another $500,000 to be raised. Sherriff Tony Cameron has asked that $100,000 of his department’s budget that has not been used be returned to the county for the library. Bennett’s Glass has offered glass at cost, and the shelving will be built by the Department of Corrections.
There are many more opportunities for Suwannee County citizens to support this worthwhile effort. If you would like to donate funds, you can send checks in any amount to the Suwannee River Regional Library at 1848 Ohio Ave. South, Live Oak, FL 32060. Please indicate “DP Library Project” on the memo line. There are several naming opportunities including the building itself, rooms, furniture, equipment, etc., and three specific “Wall of Recognition” levels: Silver ($500), Gold ($1,000) and Platinum ($1,500). For further information on naming and recognition opportunities, please contact Betty Lawrence at 362-2317. Pledges to be paid over the course of three years will also be accepted.