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NEW, LARGER LIBRARY ON THE WAY

Some say it can get so busy here that cars park in the grass. It's so popular they added another fire exit in 2007 to increase the capacity from 49 to 83. - But this isn't a venue for concerts or sports games. - It's the Seminole Heights Branch Library.

To accommodate traffic at the popular branch at 4711 Central Ave., the County Commission has decided to build a larger library on or near the site, said Susan Oliver, chief librarian for north Tampa libraries.

Oliver said she doesn't know the capacity of the new library but that it will be "much bigger" with "many more rooms."

The library is catty-corner to Hillsborough High, across the street from Memorial Middle, and Broward Elementary is not far away.

The project will cost $6.8 million, including survey work, construction, design and development and new equipment. The current building is 6,000 square feet. The new building will be somewhere in the area of 15,000 square feet, said Swati Bose, a manager in Hillsborough County's real estate department.

Funding, however, won't be available until 2011. The project is expected to be completed by October 2013, Bose said. The money comes from Library Taxing District funds, Oliver said.

In the past three months, the library has seen almost 2,000 participants in its programs alone, not counting walk-in traffic, said librarian Desiree Spavo. Now that the school year is under way, officials expect the number of users to increase drastically.

Students have traditionally used the library as a safe place to hang out after school, Spavo said. It can get packed between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.

"There are all working families in the area," Spavo said.

Bose acknowledged that the need is high.

"It's in poor shape and it's got some problems. It's very overcrowded," she said. The building itself is old, Bose said, and in need of renovation or replacement.

Trevor Van Nostrand, 19, went to Hillsborough High School for two years. He said he could always see how busy the library was from across the intersection.

"There are kids all over the place and kids outside," he said.

Jacquelyne Leak, who has visited the library almost every other day for about three years with her children, said other improvements are needed, too.

"They need more computers," Leak said, adding that more room and tables would help, as well. "Besides that, it's a good library."

Spavo, who has been working at the library for a few months, said there is always a wait for one of the 17 computers, sometimes as long as 45 or 50 minutes.

"We very much need it," she said. "We do fill a very big part of the people's needs."

Amy Mariani can be reached at (813) 226-3374 or amariani@sptimes.com.

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