The Hernando County Public Library system once appealed mostly just to book lovers. But now it has programs for a broad range of users, including film lovers and even filmmakers.
This selection of offings is one reason the Florida Library Association has chosen the Hernando system as its 2013 Library of the Year.
"One of the things that stood out in their application was their comprehensive approach," said the association's awards committee chair Elizabeth Curry, a dean at the College of Central Florida, Ocala. "They truly have outstanding service."
Amelia Anderson, Hernando's outreach services librarian, noted the submission for the honor was the system's first in recent times.
While Curry said the association does not reveal the number of entries, she pointed out that the award is open to all public, private, school, academic and specialty libraries throughout the state.
"It's a big deal," Curry said of the foremost recognition.
The award will be presented May 3 at the association's annual conference in Orlando.
In making the selection, Curry said the awards committee looked for innovation in programming and expansion of services to all parts of its community.
Hernando stood out partly because of its many offerings to young people, Curry said. These included computer and creative writing classes, e-readers, audio books, money management for teens, crafts, hands-on animal encounters and story times.
Adults are offered classes in financial planning, retirement readiness and tax assistance.
Launched the end of last year is a quarterly newsletter, Library Link, available in hard copy at each library site and online.
"We ran out of every copy printed" in the first run of 1,000, said Anderson. Patrons have put a significant dent in the stack of 2,500 issues printed for this quarter.
An innovative Creation Station opened this month at the West Hernando Branch Library near Weeki Wachee with an extensive array of equipment for shooting and editing video film, a full studio lighting set and devices for recording and editing audio — all to create multimedia projects that can be shown on the station's large-screen television.
Provided by bequest from the estate of Howard R. Frank, a longtime retiree from Spring Hill who left the library $75,000 when he died in 2010, the equipment can be checked out just like other library materials.
Another new endeavor, Book Clubs to Go, offers kits with 15 copies of various books along with suggested discussion topics and questions.
These can serve established book clubs as well as other community groups. The library has also taken its computer classes on the road, providing instruction at the Hernando County Family YMCA in Spring Hill.
"Every time, classes have been full," Anderson enthused.
Other partners in special library programming have included the county Cooperative Extension Service, county Animal Services, Arc of the Nature Coast and the state parks at Weeki Wachee and Homosassa Springs.
The awards committee, said Curry, also was impressed with the Hernando libraries' circulating of Kindle e-readers, which patrons may check out for free.
Anderson pointed out that the volunteer group, Friends of the Library, raises much of the funding for programs that require cash outlays, mainly for materials, giveaway books, craft supplies and occasional refreshments. The group raises money through sales of donated and redundant library materials at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Spring Hill, which is staffed by volunteers.
The Hernando system includes branches in Brooksville, Spring Hill, Ridge Manor and in Ridge Manor and the Istachatta.
Site addresses and phone numbers, program schedules and library news are available online at hcpl.lib.fl.us.
Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected].