Public libraries have long been near and dear to many people’s hearts. Several libraries under the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative have undergone recent renovations. Let’s take a look at the New Tampa Regional Library, and see how it’s changed in recent years.
Earlier this year, only 42 percent of households had library cards. Now, that number is up to 70 percent, which is six percent higher than last year.
The New Tampa Regional Library has reconstructed the children’s area, and added more meeting spaces and computers.
“The seating spaces around the library are used for my study groups- studying with friends, hanging out with friends,” said Yewon Kee, a high school student. “During testing, I usually study here and do my homework here, and it’s really natural to be around computers because it feels like I’m at home too.”
“Libraries aren’t just a place to come and consume information,” said Christopher Brackett, a librarian at the New Tampa Regional Library. “People are now gathering information, creating new information, and sharing that with other people.”
“I enjoy the meeting spaces. They work out perfectly,” said Victor Mendez, a tutor. “It’s very quiet and it’s a good environment to teach my students.”
“Another big thing that they do is they put signs up now. They used to not have signs that say this is a quiet space and vice versa, said Mendez. “So that prevents a lot of the high school kids from coming and making a mess and you know being very loud.”
HCPLC has a little over 1,600 computers, which means that 1.18 public computers are shared by every 1,000 people. For the past couple of years, people have made over seven million virtual visits each year.
“88 percent of the people in Hillsborough County have some type of computer- whether it’s a desktop, laptop or smartphone, but 20 percent of the population doesn’t have internet access,” said Brackett.
“Occasionally I’ll use a computer if I’m having Wi-Fi issues at the house or something,” said Eugene Bolchoz, a library patron.
While State Aid to Libraries grants have been decreasing for Hillsborough county and are estimated to continue decreasing, the overall State Aid to Libraries has been the same and recently increased, in the past three years. In other words, as a county we’re getting less grant money, but as a state we haven’t changed much.
“Our budget is 40 million per year and we have 27 locations and two buses,” said Brackett.
“The Homestead Exemption that they’re going to be voting on next year, if that passes that will probably affect us negatively also. Because if there’s less money being generated by taxes, there’s less money that we have to spend on our services. But, the director and the other county administrator’s have been working on a plan for that if that does go through,” said Brackett.
From the Florida Department of State, Division of Library and Information Services Annual Statistic Report for 2017, this is how much money is spent on the HCPLC library collection.
At the same time, the number and attendance of adult, youth, and children’s programs has increased. So, how do libraries do it?
“Really the only constant in libraries is change,” said Brackett. “We’re just keeping up with what the community needs, so we’re taking what resources we have and finding out new ways that that can work best for the community.”
“There’s been a lot of progress I think with certain additions- videos, the construction that’s going on- it has not really been that inconvenient,” said Bolchoz. “In front there’s a lot of community meetings here.”
The next time you’re out, stop by your local public library, and observe how old and new coexist.
Reporting for USF, I’m Nada Blassy.