WESTCHASE — The Upper Tampa Bay Regional Library will nearly double in size after an expansion that is part of an approximately $8.2 million capital improvement project for four of Hillsborough County's public libraries.
The library, which is about 15,000 square feet, will expand by about 12,000 square feet and include a larger children's room, a larger community room and more seating, technology and activity space.
Jean Peters, chief librarian for the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative, is excited to see the Upper Tampa Bay Regional Library expand. When the library was built in 2005, she said, it was designed with future expansion in mind.
"We knew at the time it was being built that eventually we would outgrow the current building," Peters said.
The expansion will cost $2,183,063 and is funded through property tax dollars through the Hillsborough County Capital Improvement Program.
Other projects include a 10,000 square-foot expansion to the Jimmy B. Keel Regional Library, which will cost $2,080,344 and will also include a larger children's room and community room. The Brandon Regional Library will see parking lot renovations by February, and the Seminole Heights Branch Library is being rebuilt.
The Bloomingdale Regional Library, which was approved under a different project for expansion in late 2010, will also expand by about 10,000 feet by the end of 2013.
"They're all very busy regional libraries, Peters said. "We just need more people space, more meeting space — just more room to have activities for our customers. We're going to be getting a larger children's room, which is really greatly needed at all three locations."
Carrie Vera, a patron of the Upper Tampa Bay Regional Library, looks forward to the expansion. "Sometimes there are hardly any tables or you have to wait two hours for a meeting room," she said.
Project manager Israel Grajales said most of the work will begin this month, when a temporary wall will be erected in the library's community room so an existing wall can be demolished and the expansion can begin. The second phase of the project will include minor renovations.
Lyla Varela, who visits the library almost every other week, mostly for children's books, said she thinks the expanded children's room will be "awesome." Currently, the children's room has a paper sign on its window that lists its maximum capacity at 27 people.
All library projects are expected to be complete by December.
"Because it's a renovation, we're trying to keep the library fully functional during the construction period and trying to minimize the impact on the library," Grajales said.
Though Peters said some shelving and furniture may be moved, the Upper Tampa Bay, Jimmy B. Keel and Bloomingdale libraries will remain open during construction.
"It may be a little dustier or noisier than usual, but we're going to do our best to keep our normal operations going," Peters said.