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New Seminole Heights library to open soon

Seminole Heights’ new two-story, 22,000-square-foot library more than tripled the space of the old one-story library that closed in October 2012.
Published Jan. 8, 2014

SEMINOLE HEIGHTS

The books are all in at the new Seminole Heights Branch Library, and sometime in the coming weeks, doors will open.

"We're getting the bugs worked out and definitely will open by the end of January," said Bill Hand, a county project manager for the site.

The "soft" opening at 4711 Central Ave. will come without the fanfare of a ribbon cutting expected later, probably in February, Hand said.

"People call daily asking if we're open," said Carrie Hurst, the branch supervisor for the library, as she tagged children's books earlier this week. "We anticipate a rush."

But first, workers will place the stained glass this weekend in front windows, complementing the work nearby at Hillsborough High School. On Monday, furniture arrives. Then a large banister leading upstairs will be secured into place.

Earlier this week, workers were busy installing cables to computer labs and desks in the two-story, 22,000-square-foot library, which came in under its budget of $3.9 million, said Hand.

It more than tripled the space of the old library that closed in October 2012. The neighborhood, which has grown to 15,800 residents, had outgrown the one-story building that was nearly 50 years old and was limited by the fire marshal to an occupancy of 88 people. In the month before it closed, library officials said 11,257 users stopped in. The building sits across from Memorial Middle School and is within walking distance of two other schools.

"We get inundated after school," Hurst said.

The new building was designed in an arts and craft or prairie style, said Hand.

Crape myrtle trees line the front with several on-street parking spots. The design is for a walking community, with the building close to the street. Parking has been expanded from 20 spots to almost 80.

Meeting rooms are downstairs with the library upstairs, featuring a front porch balcony, which may hold gliders.

A children's room faces the street on one side of the porch and a teen combination technical room on the other.

Hand said the teen room has the best view in the building, looking out into a protected live oak.

Just inside the porch will be a special collection of historic home books on old wood bookshelves. The books will feature the bungalows of the area. The room will be named for Steve Gluckman, a neighborhood preservationist, archaeologist and professor at the University of South Florida, who died in 2007. Gluckman also had spearheaded a book sale for the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association for about 13 years. A framed picture of Gluckman will hang in the room. He had also compiled a database of Burgert Brothers photos of Seminole Heights.

The new library is one of several expansions at branches, including Jimmie B. Keel, Bloomingdale, Robert W. Saunders Sr. and Upper Tampa Bay. Funding for the projects comes from property taxes set aside for libraries.

Hand said libraries are becoming more like cultural centers. New designs for libraries are following this trend, with more technical space and flexible furniture.

"People bring the furniture together like it's a living room," he said.

Space is reserved just inside the front doors of the new library for the Friends of the Library. There, members will sell books to raise money for programs and events for the library.

"I have not been allowed in yet," said Pat Benjamin, president of Friends of the Seminole Heights Library. She checks often on the progress.

"It's killing me."

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at eparker@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3431.

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