THE MAIL

June 26 Mail: Libraries, Nelson Cuba and Pet Fostering

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Libraries Are Not a Luxury

The true sign of a civilized society is its investment in the arts and education. Once it has the ability and desire to support these pursuits, it has truly arrived at a level of sophistication that forever separates it from the barbarous dregs.

Unfortunately in these troubling times, more and more municipalities are suffering from financial crises that are unprecedented. Naturally, their first instinct is to cut back on cultural aspects of their budget. These things aren't really "necessary," right? The most vulnerable point on any city's lists of departments is the place where culture meets education: its public libraries.

Sure enough, the city of Jacksonville has announced that it plans to close six of its library branches, including the one that I frequent ["Unseemly Ultimatum," June 19]. Do I take this personally? Of course, I do. Not a week goes by when I'm not buried in the stacks of this great library. I actually moved to this area of town because I knew the library was less than a mile away. But I protest this closure not only for myself but also for my community.

On any given day, this library is a place where parents bring their children to reinforce the importance of literacy, where seniors come to get assistance with their taxes, where families check out videos for family night, where students come to do research, where kids can seek homework assistance, where a wide variety of people come to take classes — everything from cooking to anime, and where job-seekers with no Internet access at home come to search for employment. It is also a source of free entertainment at a time when the family budget is under even more strain than the public one is.

Libraries also preserve our history, create special collections based on the needs of their specific communities, act as a meeting place where we can discuss our issues and concerns, are often the places where we vote, are a source of different points of view, are an opportunity for expanding one's education for those who cannot afford college, and — dare I say it? — a quiet, air-conditioned refuge in an otherwise hot and hectic world.

Libraries are the canaries in the coalmine. Their death presages the death of civilization.

Jacksonville is a city with a population of about 828,000 and is in the bottom third of the country when it comes to literacy. That literacy rate has been on the decline for years. These libraries are not a luxury. They're a necessity.

Join me in protesting the death of Jacksonville's libraries! Contact Mayor Alvin Brown at mayorbrown@coj.net.

Barb Abelhauser

Jacksonville

Make Libraries a Priority

Thank you very much for bringing the important issue of fully funding Jacksonville's Public Libraries (JPL) to the front in your June 19 issue.

I have several friends who are members of Friends of the Library. That is why I was attracted to their table when leaving JAX2025 and ended up signing their petition. I hope that all JAX2025 attendees signed up.

There are thousands of people who cannot afford books, CDs, DVDs or even a home PC. These are all services that are available at the local library. In order for the services to be provided, the library must be open during the times these patrons are off work and able visit. Curtailing the hours hurts our community, makes us less literate, and by doing so, hurts our chances of bringing in new jobs.

The idea of allowing the JPL to receive one mil of funding or about $49 million based on current taxable values is a great idea. The idea of allowing the Library Board, which is currently an advisory group, to control the spending is also very good. This board consists of people who care about the library and understand what library services are needed. They also will not be under the political pressure that the mayor and City Council are to use the library as the first place to cut the city budget.

Even if the required 26,000 signatures to bring the non-binding resolution to the ballot box is not reached, I hope the initiative will bring about dialog in the community and on the City Council. It is time for the city of Jacksonville to make our libraries a priority.

Bruce A. Fouraker

Jacksonville

Become a Pet Foster Parent

On May 1, 2012, I lost a beloved friend and companion of 17 years: my cat, Smitti. Grief-stricken, I turned to Jacksonville Animal Care & Protective Services, hoping to fill the gigantic void in my heart by volunteering there ["Adoption Emergency," June 5]. I found more than I could have imagined: I not only adopted two kittens, I fostered one, Lilac, whom I subsequently adopted. Encouraged, I joined the foster program and found out how easy it is to save a life — just one room will do nicely — but allow for lots of room in your heart.

It was hard to give up my first litter — Miss Marble and the girls, Peaches, Cream and Mocha — but I realized that if I had kept them, I could not save any more little lives. As I progressed through my grief, I found much love where once there had been emptiness, and my foster kittens — as well as my newly adopted ones (who love to babysit) — helped me do it.

Once I tried to save the world from hate and prejudice. I failed, but I found I could save a life. Won't you help me?

Jane Chambers

Jacksonville

 

Allow Cuba His Time in Court

I have known Nelson Cuba professionally for a number of years ["Cuba's Crisis," June 12]. He has always proven to be straightforward, ethical and dedicated to his assigned tasks. Furthermore, he has proven to be good at what he does since the Fraternal Order of Police lodge has flourished under his leadership.

Can he be abrasive? Name a successful person who isn't accused of that at some point in his or her career. Has he made mistakes? Nelson Cuba has never claimed to be superhuman or perfect to my knowledge, and I have never noticed holes in his hands. Has he undertaken his assignment with a gusto and liveliness previously unknown in Jacksonville? Absolutely!

Two hundred-plus years ago, many patriots put their lives on the line so that we would not be subject to convictions without meaningful trials. Is Nelson Cuba not eligible for those protections because of who he is or what he does? It is easy to accuse someone of a crime, charge them, arrest them, and hold them up to public scrutiny. All of these things can be done without the benefit of a trial by his peers, and much harm is often suffered by the individual who has been accused.

Only when a jury of people from the community sit in a courtroom under the direction of a judge and hear evidence under the guidelines and rules promulgated by our society, can a decision be made about his guilt or innocence. Until then, I suggest everyone sit back and allow him his time in court. Nelson Cuba has worked a career to provide everyone else that opportunity, and he deserves no less. The tragedy to me is, if and when he is acquitted, will the bell tolling these allegations be "unrung," will the press talk as loudly and often of his innocence? Time will tell!

John Joseph Cascone

Jacksonville

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