Although the city planned to renovate the library in three years, residents could see construction on a new building start much sooner. The Pinellas Public Library Cooperative (PPLC) has traditionally offered construction grants, but the news that this year will be the last year for such grants has city staff planning ahead.
“We’re the only community in Pinellas County [with the exception of Gulf Beaches in Madeira Beach] since the coop has formed that hasn’t undergone a significant expansion, renovation and/or new construction,” City Manager Mike Bonfield said.
For this reason, the city commission agreed to allow staff to press on with asking the PPLC for money to step up the planned renovation.
“There is a substantial lump of money there that I believe that PPLC wants to expend this year so that account goes down to zero,” Library Administrator Phyllis Ruscella told the commission. She added that she will also apply to the state for state funding as well.
“Many people wonder, in today’s world, with e-books and the Internet, is library usage down, and in many ways, it’s going up for those reasons,” City Manager Bonfield said.
80% of beach residents have library cards. The PPLC has $570,000 to spend on qualified projects, although no one project can get more than $200,000. Former Mayor Ward Friszolowski, who works for Harvard Jolly architects, donated his time to create preliminary plans for the new library.