TAMPA — With the clock ticking down on the annex at Hillsborough County’s main library, Tampa Heights activists — and their kids — have made a pitch to move children’s materials from the annex to the historic Free Library on E Seventh Avenue.
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“Instead of going outside, they could come to this library and study more,” 9-year-old Jazmine Eubanks told the board of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library Board during its meeting last week at the Free Library.
Jazmine, a fourth grader at B.C. Graham Elementary School, was one of about 20 students who walked over from their after-school program to make the case for moving children’s materials to the Free Library, which is now being used for library system administrative offices.
Currently, the children’s area occupies the first floor of the annex at the John F. Germany Public Library on N Ashley Drive in downtown Tampa.
But City Hall, which owns the building, is thinking about demolishing the annex and neighboring clamshell-shaped auditorium, then redeveloping the site.
Beginning in November, the library system moved about 40 administrative workers from the fourth floor of the main library to the Free Library at 102 E Seventh Avenue. The popular history and genealogy collection, plus the children’s area now in the annex, are expected to be moved into the main library. The annex also houses the city’s mainframe computers, which are expected to take eight or nine months to move to a new location.
Tampa Heights civic activists said the neighborhood has no library in an area bordered by Interstate 275 on the east and south, North Boulevard on the west and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on the north.
Between the renewed interest in existing Tampa Heights homes and new development — Soho Capital is building 314 apartments near the old Armature Works — Tampa Heights has a growing population of families who would make good use of the space, proponents say.
“You can’t get any more central than this,” Tampa Heights Civic Association president Rick Fernandez told the library board.
“We would just like to have a children’s library that we could walk to and ride our bikes to and not pay for parking,” said Stacey Warder, president of the Ridgewood Park Crime Prevention and Civic Association, representing a neighborhood of about 400 residents less than a mile from the Free Library.
In response, library system director Andrew Breidenbaugh made no promises to open a children’s area in the Free Library. He did say he wants library administrators to meet with the students’ adult leaders to talk about ways the library system could extend its presence or resources to Tampa Heights well before anything happens to the annex.
“It takes a long time for a (new) library to be planned,” Breidenbaugh said, “but it doesn’t take a long time for library service to come to you. … Let’s see what we can do for you guys.”
Contact Richard Danielson at email@example.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times