Current Issues

15 City Peer Comparison Shows Jacksonville as “Dead Last”

Jacksonville Pubic Library System is “Dead Last” among its 15 peer library systems according to a comparison updated last year (.pdf) that contains more information about public service hours per week, visits per hour and the identity of the peer library systems. 

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce will be taking its Leadership Trip this year to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. This was an excellent choice for many reasons. Kudos to the Jax Chamber Leadership Team. 

Let’s take a look at the Oklahoma Metropolitan Library System, which is a peer system to the Jacksonville Library System. There is a Downtown Library in Oklahoma City open 70 hours per week. The Jacksonville Main Library is open only 52 hours per week. Which metropolitan area should be more attractive to a business seeking to relocate to a large city?

The Oklahoma Metropolitan Library System has 18 branches. The Jacksonville Public Library System has 20 branches, including the Willowbranch Branch Public Library which has been closed for a portion of the past two years. The tale of these two metropolitan areas speaks volumes. So how do they compare in August 2015 as to the average hours open to the public:

  • Consolidated City of Jacksonville - 41 average hours per week.  
  • Oklahoma Metropolitan System - 62 average hours per week. 
  • 6 out of the 7 branch libraries within Oklahoma City proper are open 7 days per week. 
  • However, in comparison, not a single branch library within the entire Consolidated City of Jacksonville is open 7 days per week. Not a single one! 
  • Sixteen of twenty-one libraries within the Consolidated City of Jacksonville are only open 5 days per week. The four urban core libraries are currently shuttered all day Saturday and Sunday, all weekend. All 19 of the Oklahoma Metropolitan System libraries are open on Saturdays. No exceptions. Not true in Jacksonville where the weekends are not a friendly place for patrons and “would-be patrons,” young and old, for the four urban core libraries.
  • Within the entire Oklahoma Metropolitan System and its 19 libraries, 14 libraries are open 7 days per week. 

The Friends of the Murray Hill Public Library, Inc. have repeatedly expressed their desire to have the Murray Hill branch library open seven days a week to all. Is that too much to ask? Should we move our businesses and residences to Oklahoma? We love Jacksonville. It is our home. But honestly, we can do better. We must. This is “an embarrassment” to residents and the business community, alike.

Libraries are not just about books!

Our libraries provide places for people to seek employment, participate in community meetings, access multimedia materials, and further the education and of our children. These are just a few of the important functions that our libraries serve.

Consider the following facts: 

  • Early literacy remains a problem in our community and the public libraries are a critical part of the solution.
  • Public libraries should be sufficiently funded so that their doors are open to the children of our community during weekdays and weekends.
  • Attracting businesses and jobs to Jacksonville requires that we pay attention to the health of our public libraries that support our overall educational system.
  • Businesses will not relocate to a city where its public libraries are shuttered and closed.
  • Libraries offer more than just books, but provide a range of services and materials for the entire population.


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