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Don't let them delay library

Members of the Florida Board of Regents who support the University of South Florida's jewel of a branch campus in St. Petersburg should not delay planning funds for an expansion of its library. An attempt to put off that project for two years will come before the board at its meeting Thursday in Boca Raton. Readers should know that this is a subject on which we claim no objectivity. The campus is a significant part of life in the Tampa Bay region. We support it enthusiastically. Its library, which was reduced in size when originally built, is named for our late editor, Nelson Poynter.

The USF administration asked the regents for $840,000 in fiscal 1991-92 to plan the library expansion. The idea was to convert the present building to classroom space to make up for space lost when the old "D" building is demolished.

The regents staff did not follow the priorities recommended by USF. Three projects _ $3.6-million for asbestos removal and roof replacement at the main campus mental health institute, $4.6-million for main campus utilities improvements and $600,000 for science center renovation _ were moved ahead of the library.

The regents staff is recommending that the library project be delayed until fiscal 1993-94. Even on the 1993-94 priority list, the staff lists the library at No. 36, next to last for all university building projects in the state.

We urge citizens of St. Petersburg who know the importance of an adequate library to the campus to make known their support for this project. The community should send a delegation to the Thursday meeting to demonstrate the need. We hope that Cecil B. Keene, a regent from St. Petersburg, will demand that the higher priority for the library be restored.

It's always true that there's not enough money for all educational needs. Florida's universities want $1.2-billion for construction projects during the next five years, but they expect only $359-million in revenues. This project is worthy and deserves better treatment than it received from the regents' staff.