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Tampa's main library to close for Republican National Convention

TAMPA — Hillsborough County's main library, the John F. Germany Public Library, will be closed the week before and the week of the Republican National Convention.

"We anticipate that access to the building would be very challenging during the convention," said David Wullschleger, operations manager for the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System.

So administrators plan to move staff from the main library downtown to other branches and continue to offer as many services as possible during the closure. Closing the week before the convention will allow for the relocation. Neither the city, police nor other law enforcement officials requested the closure, Wullschleger said.

The John Germany library is open seven days a week. In March, it served more than 17,600 adults and 7,000-plus juvenile patrons. Also closing for the convention will be the Robert W. Saunders Sr. Public Library on Nebraska Avenue, between downtown and Ybor City. It is open on weekdays, and in March had 1,721 adult and 666 juvenile customers.

Already, a lot has been planned during the convention — scheduled for Aug. 27-30 — near the main library, which is at the southwest corner of Ashley Drive and Tyler Street.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart will tape a week's worth of episodes at the neighboring David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. Google will host a party at the Tampa Museum of Art on the closing night of the convention. Convention organizers have dibs on Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park for social events. And the Glazer Children's Museum is another potential venue for private parties and convention-related events.

By moving employees, including those who staff a call center, the library system hopes to maintain as much continuity of service as possible.

"We hope it would be a minimal impact on our customers," Wullschleger said Tuesday.

But Chyrisse Tabone, an environmental scientist who relies on the library for her work, says the closure will be devastating.

Tabone, 49, of Dade City often is hired by banks, mortgage brokers and other firms to perform environmental site assessments for properties in the Tampa Bay area. For those assessments, she must research the history of each property, a task that means looking at old city directories to determine whether, for example, a piece of property was ever used as a gas station, dry cleaners or junkyard.

The John Germany library has city directories from all over the state, many going back to the 1920s, and Tabone said no other place has so complete a collection. Not being able to use the library will mean having to forgo assignments, including those that could start earlier but overlap into the period that the library is closed.

"I have to make sure I don't accept anything that falls into that window," she said. The deadlines for such assignments are tight, and she said she must pay a fine if she's late with the work.

In all, Tabone estimates, closing the library could cost her $4,000 to $10,000, and she said she's not the only person out there whose livelihood is tied to access to the library.

"They're going to come and go," Tabone said of conventioneers, "but we live and work here, and our livelihood is going to be affected."

The library is not the only county facility to be closed during the convention. The Fred B. Karl County Center will be closed for two weeks staring Aug. 20 and reopening after Labor Day, though services will be offered at county satellite offices during the convention.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn said this month that he has not decided yet which city offices might be closed for the convention. He suspects Old City Hall will be closed, but he and city departments dealing with infrastructure will be on the job at the Municipal Office Building next door.

"For us, it will be pretty much business as usual," he said.

Richard Danielson can be reached at danielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403.

Tampa's main library to close for Republican National Convention 05/29/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 11:28pm]
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