VALRICO — One of the busiest libraries in Hillsborough County will soon have a facility that better meets its patrons' needs.
Construction is under way to expand the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library. When the work is complete, the library will almost double in size — to about 25,000 square feet from about 15,000.
Highlights of the expansion are a larger children's room, larger community room, more space for technology and teens, more study/quiet room space, and a bigger Friends of the Library bookstore.
"From the day we opened, it's been very, very busy," said Jean Peters, a spokeswoman for the county's Library Services department. "We knew from day one we were going to expand it. It's just really, really gratifying to see this coming to fruition."
The library at 1906 Bloomingdale Ave. was initially scheduled to open at 10,000 square feet. County officials got a little extra money and changed the plans to make it 15,000 square feet. But when it opened in 2005 they knew that it still would not be large enough for its users.
Their predictions about the community's support of the library were right on the mark.
The library circulated 663,166 items in the 2012 fiscal year. That's an average of 55,263 items per month, giving the Bloomingdale library the second highest circulation in the county's library system. Only the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library in North Tampa is busier.
The Bloomingdale library's inadequate size has caused problems. The children's room is too small, only able to hold some of the juvenile collection. Also, the branch falls short in public meeting room space and quiet areas to read, study or use a computer.
All these issues will be resolved with the $2.1 million expansion, which should be finished by the end of December. The expansion is paid for through the county's Library Taxing District.
"I think patrons are going to be delighted when they walk in and see all the things available to them, Peters said. "The kids, I think, will be tickled with a much bigger space."
Branch manager Eloise Hurst said construction hasn't greatly impacted the day-to-day operations, although some parking spaces have been occupied by construction equipment. And there is noise from the project.
Hurst said staff and patrons are looking forward to the bigger digs. The library is packed with patrons every day.
"This is a huge relief to have the additional space," Hurst said. "We'll have more space for everyone."
John Rochefort didn't know the library's circulation numbers but could easily tell it was a bustling branch. He visits weekly with daughter Meredith, 3, and he said there is always a crowd waiting for the library to open.
Rochefort looks forward to a larger library, especially the new children's areas.
"I think it's really needed," the Lithia resident said. "I think it'll be great."
Pam Bittner spends a lot of time at the library. She recently finished a 10-week class on writing her life story. She also visits the library with her grandsons. It is one of her favorite places.
"It's a great experience to come to the library," she said.
Bittner, 65, of Valrico, joked that she's not a technology geek so she hopes there will always be a library in her neighborhood so she can scour its aisles for a good book.
Monica Bennett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.