NEW PORT RICHEY — Lillian Neenan was carrying her "SAVE OUR LIBRARY" bookbag the other day when a 7-year-old boy took a penny out of his mother's purse.
The boy, she said, was upset to hear that county commissioners are considering closing Centennial Park Library in Holiday due to budget cuts. He wanted to make a donation to keep it open.
"He had tears in his eyes as he said he wanted to save the library," said Neenan, a Port Richey resident who volunteers at Centennial.
Neenan told that story Tuesday as she and a handful of other library patrons urged commissioners to keep the library open.
"Don't shortchange him by being shortsighted now," said Neenan.
Iris Lee, a volunteer from Trinity, cited the number of people she saw using computers to hunt for jobs.
"In bad economic times, people need libraries more than ever," said Lee. "Please don't close our library. We need it."
The Centennial library is about three miles from the larger South Holiday branch on Mile Stretch. Patrons said that the South Holiday building is already crowded as it is.
"It puts a strain on that library," Lee said before the meeting.
Closing Centennial is expected to save about $280,000, mostly due to the elimination of the 10 positions that staff the library on Moog Road, said library director Linda Allen.
Those staffers will be moved into other library positions that had been left vacant due to a hiring freeze.
County officials say they will also get some savings by moving employees from other departments out of leased space — such as the offices at Grand Boulevard and Trouble Creek Road — and into the Centennial building.
But officials acknowledge that there will also be a cost to retrofit the library for office use and find a place to store book shelves.
Commissioner Ann Hildebrand pointed out that officials had put Centennial up for closing last year, then had a change of heart. But she said she doesn't know if there's a way to keep it open again given the financial constraints.
"There isn't anybody sitting here … who wants to close that library," she said. "I wish there was a way to keep this library open."
Commissioners will discuss the library and other proposed cuts in more detail over the course of the summer. Commissioners take a final vote on the budget in September.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.