The Florida Public Library Association was established in 1987 by a group of independent and municipal public library administrators dissatisfied with the method by which state aid was allocated to public libraries in Florida. The law in Florida at the time excluded from eligibility for state operating grants municipal public libraries serving a population of fewer than 200,000. The law effectively excluded every municipal public library in the state except for the one in St. Petersburg. Only public libraries that were part of a county or district system were eligible for such grants.
Believing that the law discriminated against independent and municipal public libraries, administrators of those institutions organized the Municipal Libraries Caucus within the Florida Library Association (See RG2615). The caucus members urged the leadership of the FLA to lobby the state legislature to amend the law to make municipal and independent public libraries eligible for state funding on the same basis as public libraries that were part of a county or district library system. The FLA leadership refused the request and the president of the organization wrote to every Florida legislator urging them to oppose the enactment of legislation which would have accomplished the goal of the Municipal Libraries Caucus.
In response to this lack of support from the FLA, David Reich, director of the Lakeland Public Library and an FLA board member, began to contact municipal library directors to gauge their interest in establishing a new library organization to better serve the needs of municipal and independent public libraries in the state. The response was favorable and a group of municipal library administrators met in Sebring on June 5, 1987 to sign the articles of incorporation of the Florida Public Library Association. Reich was elected the first president of the organization and it held a regional meeting of charter members in Sebring in early October 1987.
Over the next ten years the Florida Public Library Association enlisted support for its cause among public libraries and lobbied the Florida legislature to amend the law governing state aid to public libraries. The goal of this effort was to allow municipal and independent public libraries to receive state aid without having to surrender their autonomy. The organization also sponsored annual meetings and a variety of professional workshops to promote cooperation among Florida's public libraries, as well as to disseminate knowledge of the profession and foster professionalism among Florida's public library community.
Although the Florida Public Library Association was never successful in amending the law, it was successful in changing the way in which the state defined a public library system in determining eligibility for state aid. By the late 1990's, a municipal public library no longer had to sacrifice its independence in order to be eligible for state aid. The state began to recognize library cooperatives, in which several libraries shared resources while retaining their administrative autonomy, as eligible to receive state aid. The cooperative had only to have a central advisory board through which state funds could be distributed to the libraries participating in the cooperative. The Polk County Library Cooperative is such an entity.
The executive board of the Florida Public Library Association, faced with declining membership and having achieved the organization's principal goal of making municipal and independent public libraries eligible for state aid, voted in 1998 to recommend to the membership that the organization be dissolved. The membership endorsed the recommendation at a final membership meeting in November 1998.