ZEPHYRHILLS — City officials just gave the go-ahead to start planning the expansion of the Zephyrhills Public Library, and library director Vicki Elkins already has her wish list:
More space for books. More room for computers. A larger children's area. And space for community programs, such as knitting lessons.
"It's going to be nice just to offer people more than we have now," Elkins said.
Elkins was beaming Monday night as the City Council voted unanimously to seek an architect and engineer to renovate and expand the nearly 4,200-square-foot library. It was a moment Elkins and library supporters have dreamed about for years.
City officials and Library Advisory Board members have considered many options, including the donation of a building (that didn't meet the city's needs), purchasing land (too costly to build on) and repurposing the former Wachovia building at Fifth Avenue and Seventh Street (too much work). Ultimately they decided the library built in 1964 next door to City Hall will be renovated and expanded — possibly to twice its current size.
"I'm pleased," Jerry Pricher, 60, chairman of the library board, said of the vote to move forward. "We're running against a deadline. It's a promise we made for Penny for Pasco."
A larger city library was on the city's list of projects it pledged to do if voters approved the Penny for Pasco sales tax in 2004. County officials have encouraged the cities to move forward with their Penny projects, so voters can see what came from the revenue before they are asked in 2014 to renew the one-cent sales tax, said City Manager Jim Drumm.
"I'm glad that they finally made a decision," Drumm told the Pasco Times. "Now people can see their tax money put to work."
And the added space is long overdue at the library, which saw its last addition in 1981. Elkins laughs when she thinks about the office space that also serves as a break room, storage area and computer server area.
"They've been cramped for years," said Pricher, who hopes the expansion will double the size of the library. "That would be ideal."
Pricher said while the library's address will remain the same — 5347 Eighth St. — it should have a completely different look, even the existing portion. But there's one thing he wants to remain the same.
"It's a friendly place to walk into, and I don't want to ever lose that," he said.
He expects that when the board meets in January, the city should have an architect and engineer chosen, and plans and costs should start materializing. He's excited, too.
"The people who live in Zephyrhills and use the library love it," he said.
Soon, there will be more of it to love.