SPC, Clearwater to work out funding on joint library

CLEARWATER — St. Petersburg College is going to build a new library on its Clearwater campus. How involved the city of Clearwater will be in that project remains unanswered.

SPC and Clearwater have signed an agreement to plan a joint-use facility that would serve students as well as users of the city's East Branch Library on Drew Street. A feasibility study is under way.

Once the college picks an architect, probably in August, the city and college will begin to hash out how much Clearwater will pitch in toward the estimated $6 million to $10 million cost.

"We'll be getting down to the nitty-gritty of what we're going to contribute," City Manager Bill Horne said.

Either way, the college is going to build a new library, said Stan Vittetoe, provost of SPC-Clearwater. How much of that new facility will belong to Clearwater will depend on how much cash the city pitches in.

"The more space they want, the more it will cost," Vittetoe said.

He envisions up to 60,000 square feet in a three-story building with plenty of parking. He sees a cafe-like atmosphere with free Wi-Fi and perhaps a Starbucks or similar vendor.

Clearwater has budgeted $6.25 million in Penny for Pinellas funds for the project. Some of that has already been spent on design and planning, including the feasibility study. How much more will be forthcoming is a subject for the negotiating table, Horne said.

"It's hard to say at this point," he said.

The college and city have been kicking around the idea of sharing a new library for 15 years. If all goes as planned, the new facility will open in fall 2015.

At the East Branch, patrons said they wouldn't have a problem with a new facility a half-mile or so east on Drew Street from the current library — as long as it provided the same services.

"I don't see it as a big deal, since it will be right down the road," said Marco Santiago, 30, who lives nearby. He uses the library's computers for Internet access. As long as the new facility has computer access, he's fine with the change.

Ruth Sofarelli, 61, visits the East library every couple of weeks to check out books and DVDs. Sofarelli, a grandmother, wants the new library to have an adequate children's section and be welcoming to young children.

But she said the college site would be just as convenient.

"I heard at one time they were thinking of closing this (branch) altogether, so I'd much prefer they join forces with the college than not have something out in this area," Sofarelli said.

Barbara Pickell, Clearwater's library director, said the city had discussed closing down the East Branch during the recent recession. But an improving economy makes it easier to proceed with a new facility, which would be an upgrade over the aging 16,000-square-foot East Branch Library and better mesh with current trends in how people use libraries.

The old days of shushing impertinent murmurs while people read silently are gone. Now, libraries are meeting places, Pickell said.

"A community living room," she said.

Charlie Frago can be reached at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago.

SPC, Clearwater to work out funding on joint library 07/19/13 [Last modified: Friday, July 19, 2013 6:52pm]

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