CLEARWATER — David Hallett walks to Clearwater's East Branch Library twice weekly, plops into a worn easy chair and leafs through Popular Science or Forbes or Time.
The Clearwater resident, who started the routine 20 years ago to relax and check economic reports, said he wouldn't mind sharing space with college students — as long as the library doesn't leave its neighborhood.
"If they don't put it all the way in Timbuktu, or next to the county jail, I'm okay with it," Hallett said. "But we need this here."
The Clearwater City Council recently voted to study the idea of merging the East Branch on Drew Street with the nearby St. Petersburg College library. The council decided to spend $30,000 to study whether that's feasible.
For years, the idea has been discussed informally. But talks are getting serious now that SPC plans to expand the library on its Clearwater campus, which is a half-mile down Drew Street.
"Our patrons would get exposure to things going on at the college, different cultural activities and educational opportunities," said city library director Barbara Pickell, adding the combined collection would be "bigger and better."
The merger wouldn't save the city money, Pickell said, but funds won't be lost in gaining a new, state-of-the-art facility. The Clearwater City Council and SPC will meet again in upcoming weeks to discuss specifics and, if all goes smoothly, sign a jointly drafted memorandum.
Other city-shared libraries on college campuses, like those in St. Petersburg and Seminole, operate successfully, Pickell said. Community members and college students park in separate lots but don't overcrowd aisles or work stations.
"At this time, we're really just trying to agree on a plan right now," said Stan Vittetoe, provost of SPC's Clearwater campus. "But I believe the move would benefit both parties. We're considering tons of ideas and cool things to do."
If plans are approved, the new library will open sometime in 2015. The move shouldn't be stressful for regular patrons, Vittetoe said.
"If they're coming from the other direction, it'll be a half-mile closer."
Danielle Paquette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4224.