Tuesday, September 4

Jax Wins Book Contest and Celebrity Makeover, Meaning What Exactly?

We're Number One! I'd like to officially take at least some credit for Jacksonville winning the Soar With Reading Jet Blue contest. But now that it's time for this winner to get a chicken dinner, what does that mean and who does it mean it for?

I assume there's a line forming somewhere in cyberspace right about now. Libraries, community organizations, and politicians with the last name "Brown," all trying to figure out how to be THE local library or community organization.

I know this for sure: I did not vote over and over again for some library over on the West Side or North Side, suckas! And I know those folks weren't voting for my local library (Pablo Creek). But the money can only go so far, and Tiler Wisler can only show up at one place. So what to do now?

I'm still fairly new to Jax, so I'll analyze our decision slightly based on Milwaukee. There, a bunch of East Side and Bay View liberals would tell us all how important it is to eliminate poverty through reading, and then ask for the money to be spent at their own fancier libraries or some kind of fringe political community center. Then, you'd get several loud representatives from a few minority neighborhoods with terrible libraries who will question rich liberals getting the money. Then the mayor would weigh in and put the money and Tiler downtown, where only homeless people hang out at the library. And maybe kids who are visiting from Europe or Ixonia.

I assume you have a similar problem in Jacksonville right now. No single library really owns this victory. In fact, it doesn't have to be the public library at all, and we have several colleges here, so they'll probably join in the fun. Add in other community organizations, like the Braille library that's moving into the Regency Mall that I just learned about in church. And we always want to do nice stuff for the military here, so I wouldn't count out some kind of military kid library, either. I noticed that there's a special needs department as part of the public library system, and that's always politically correct, too. I bet there are all kinds of public and private school libraries that could use some love, too. And I don't see too many Little Free Libraries in the area, so this could help jumpstart neighborhood book trading.

I have some ideas about how the money and reading room should be chosen. First and foremost, the money is for real books. I don't care if every branch of the public library gets $1,000 and then a little more based on usage, but kids need to read books. Not DVDs or technology upgrades. Sure, I'd love the libraries to order Numbers Cool Book by James Jaeger, but mostly I want to see more kids with books. Even books that are given away.

The books really must go places that are accessible to the general public. If it's a community organization or school, then it should be available to kids at least as much as public library. I can see why it might make sense to add more books to organizations that serve a lot of kids and is not near a public library, so I don't think it has to be a government entity that receives all of the money. However, I'm not sure Jet Blue is going to deal with all the open hands. In fact, the airline should probably just give me the money to distribute so we don't end up with a repeat of the Micheal Jackson money, just sitting around in a government account.

As far as the makeover goes, that's just as complicated. Do you pick the oldest kids reading area? The one used by the most kids? Downtown? A new location? Once again, it does not have to be public, but it should serve as big a population as possible, and it should be open more hours than the typical, disappointing public library hours in Duval. Sure, it would be cool to have a reading room (with or without other library services) at the beach or on the river. Maybe in a toll plaza overlooking the 295. Or some kind of sweet book-mobile bus that takes over each local school bus route on a given day...actually, that's a pretty cool idea. And it could take over a city bus route when not operating a school route. Get crackin, Tiler.

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