Sunday, December 17, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Libraries remain vital part of community

America's libraries are alive and well. Just ask Google. A series of online reports over the past year shows that America's 9,000 public libraries are moving fast to meet the challenges of the digital age. This transformation can be a lesson for Hillsborough County as it looks to create a 21st-century experience for its main library in downtown Tampa.

Just as it has revolutionized everything from communication to commerce, the Internet has changed the uses and expectations of the public library system. But new findings, including a series of reports by the Pew Research Center, underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, show that libraries continue to hold a vaunted place in their communities, both because of their traditional role and their ability to adapt.

Book lending remains a vital service, these surveys found. And that won't change anytime soon, given that about 80 percent of the 1 billion materials available for circulation nationwide is in print, mostly books. Libraries, though, are shifting resources to electronic holdings, putting music and audio books onto shelves and online. They are also changing the size and layout of libraries to create hanging-out space where people can use their own laptops or tablets to access the collection, complete a project or merely kill time by browsing the Web or sending email.

The reports make a couple things clear. Libraries are still valued as public places. Of those polled by Pew, three-fourths said it was important to have a safe and quiet place to learn and to seek help from a librarian. For lower-income people, libraries provide the computer needed to research an issue, find a job or file for benefits. Virtual learning, in other words, is only one aspect of the much broader mission of the modern library. So libraries still need a physical presence in their communities. And digital offerings do not make libraries self-service; rather, they demand new skill sets so librarians can continue their teaching roles.

Hillsborough should mind these lessons in the coming months as it updates its master plan for the main library, called the John F. Germany library, in downtown Tampa. Hillsborough has already addressed the shift in how its libraries are used by taking out shelves and installing more booths in some facilities. Remaking the Germany library, though, is a huge opportunity to make the main library stronger and more relevant. That could mean a smarter footprint, new space for digital production and a coffeehouse feel so the library becomes more of a public square. If anything, the rise in digital has breathed new life into libraries, and in Tampa as in elsewhere, that renewed focus on libraries is breathing life into downtowns, too.

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Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17