Paul Clark, aka “The Library Guy,” was a familiar presence in the Capitol last year as he stood silently in busy hallways holding a sign urging lawmakers to fully fund the $21.2 million in state aid to libraries to keep federal funds flowing.
Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, credited Clark with the last-minute addition of the complete funding and advised other advocates to take a tip from the soft-spoken librarian. Clark’s efforts also won him a national “I Love My Librarian” award in December, and he was recently named Florida’s “Librarian of the Year.”
Clark was back in town on Wednesday, accompanied by his sons Jacob, 11, and Joseph, 10, who handed out bookmarks to lobbyists and lawmakers trekking along the bridge connecting the Capitol with the Knott Building, prime real estate according to the Clay County systems librarian.
Clark said he positioned himself at the top of the long hallway so that he’d be in plain sight as budget conferees made the long walk down the bridge as they headed into meetings during the harried final days of the 2010 session. And he stood at the opposite end when the meetings were over.
“You have to be noticed. You’ve got to be approachable, but you have to know your facts,” Clark said. That shows lawmakers “you’re not a total nut case.”
With a $3.8 billion budget deficit, there’s no money in the Senate spending plan for libraries right now, and Clark won’t be around to plead with lawmakers to put it in. He used up all his vacation time last year and has to (apologies to Gov. Rick Scott) get back to work.
Wednesday morning, Clark met briefly with Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, a visit he’s been trying to nail down for months, he said.
Carroll expressed a great deal of interest in his fact sheet, Clark said, giving him hope that libraries may not be forgotten this year, even in his absence.