For years, Tampa has wasted one of its most cherished civic structures — the historic Carnegie library, called the Free Library, north of downtown. Now area residents have asked the city-county library system to return that iconic building to its former glory by installing a children's area there. This is a wonderful idea that would serve a growing neighborhood, and coming on the library's 100th anniversary, it would be a timely and fitting tribute to the contribution that Andrew Carnegie made to the city's cultural life.
The opportunity arises because Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is examining whether to demolish the annex of the main library in downtown Tampa — a worthwhile project of its own. Residents in Tampa Heights have asked the Tampa-Hillsborough County library system to move children's materials from the annex to the Free Library, a few blocks north on Seventh Avenue.
The move would breathe life into a poorly used building and give the growing neighborhood a free, fun and exciting destination for children and families. It also would further the vision the steel magnate had in granting the city $50,000 at the turn of the 20th century to build the library, and further the vision of city leaders back then who saw children needed learning experiences beyond the classroom.
Buckhorn has been open to making better public use of the library, and officials said they will explore ways to expand the library's presence in Tampa Heights. Bringing a new and robust collection to the Free Library, which opened on April 27, 1917, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, would mark a big step in proving to be the community so many before us envisioned.