Tradition Meets Technology In New Seminole Heights' Library

Bungalow tradition meets modern technology at the new Seminole Heights Branch Library, which is in the midst of a "soft" opening after a nearly one-year construction schedule.
 
The red brick building evokes the history of a neighborhood rich in Craftsman-style bungalows and street grids canopied with grand oak trees. The technology is state-of-the-art and ready for mobile devices with Wi-Fi and plugs for laptops, tablets, IPads and more installed in the base of lamps and on the frames of chairs and tables and ottomans.
 
There are computer stations in clusters and single computers tucked away in quiet corners.
 
"It's been a big accomplishment that we have so much space, so much technology," says Carrie Hurst, the library's branch supervisor.
 
The library, at 4711 Central Ave., replaces a cramped 8,000-square-foot library that dated to the mid-1960s. Residents formed the Seminole Heights Friends of the Library and lobbied for the new 2-story, approximately 22,000-square-foot building.
 
The "arts and craft" design with tall windows, arches, a veranda and second story balcony is the work of FleischmanGarcia Architects. Stain glass art is designed by WRW Studio of Charlotteville, N.Y. A child's portrait hanging on the second floor is by University of Tampa graduate Princess Smith who was named 2013 Emerging Artist of  the Year at the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts.
 
The total cost of the project, including equipment, design and construction, is just under $7 million.
 
On the ground floor the Friends' group has a bookstore. Patrons can get a drink or snack from vending machines in a cafe area. And community meetings can be held in a 100-seat room that can be divided into two rooms, if needed.
 
Hurst says groups already are booking the space.
 
The main library on the second floor has reference and circulation desks; an "innovation studio" with movable furniture on wheels; offices for staffers; small study and meeting rooms; and a room filled with preservation research materials. The latter will be dedicated to the memory of  the late Steve Gluckman, a local historian and library fund-raiser. 
 
The library serves a unique role in the life of a neighborhood, says Pat Benjamin, president of the Friend's group. "There is home where you work and there is the place where you work," she says. "And the library is the third place. It's just a jewel in the neighborhood. It is for everybody."
 
The grand opening of the library will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on March 17.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Carrie Hurst, Seminole Heights Branch Library; Pat Benjamin, Friends of the Library

Read more articles by Kathy Steele.

Kathy Steele is a feature writer and editor at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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