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East Lake library proposes upgrades
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PALM HARBOR – In the coming fiscal year, East Lake Community Library will have an estimated $83,720 more to invest in upgrades for the library, reconfiguring the interior and future capital projects.

The extra revenue is mainly due to increased property values in the East Lake taxing district. The library began to collect funding directly from a special property tax last year, resulting in a budget of $689,100, which included about $13,000 of donated funds the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative contribution of $149,700. The library brought on new staff and increased the number of hours it’s opened.

This year, property tax revenue is estimated to increase almost 15 percent, bringing the overall budget to $772,820. Library director Lois Eannel called the increase “significant.”

“It’s been wonderful in the fact that there are so many things that need to get done what they didn’t have revenue for,” she said recently.

The community has long asked for a self-serve checkout kiosk, and this year, Eannel has $8,435 budgeted for a Bibliotheca SmartServe 400. The library also has funds to spend $3,600 for five new laptops, $9,600 in copiers and printers and $3,350 on an AweNet Children’s Learning Station, a preloaded touchscreen computer.

Another recommended addition to the library is an indoor digital sign that will allow the library to publicize events and workshops. The cost is $2,800.

Eannel said that while she is working with a very small budget, she now has the perspective of the “glass half full.”

“Hopefully there will be a lot of changes,” she said. “There’s a lot that needs to be done. There’s funding there that can be used wisely.”

Another upcoming change in the library will be an overall reconfiguration of the space. The library has already revamped its children area to create better lines of sight. Next, the teen area will be reconfigured with a more open shelving layout and new furniture at an estimated cost of $6,000.

“I can’t give the patrons, at this time, quiet study rooms and a big beautiful children’s room like they have at the Palm Harbor,” Eannel said. “We can’t make the building bigger, but we can better utilize the space.”

The new furniture will be more compact and allow for flexible and mobile seating arrangements, which is the growing trend with library interiors, Eannel said. The concept reflects an updated perspective of the library, especially in East Lake, which doesn’t have many other cultural establishments.

“I think we have to focus on the fact we’re also a community center and a cultural center, not just a library,” Eannel said.

In a similar vein of satisfying a need, the library has begun offering a collection of 12 golf umbrellas that can be checked out in the event of a sudden rainstorm. The library purchased an additional 12 to be used as replacements should the first dozen get damaged or lost.

Eannel also has begun to plan a timeline for future maintenance projects not in the annual budget.

“Before, there just wasn’t any place to get that money from,” she said.

Each month, $4,500 will be put aside for the capital fund – $2,000 more than last year – for a total of $54,000.

Not in this year’s budget but in the works, is a new reading and butterfly garden, which will feature pathways and seating amidst the flowers. The library will be partnering with community organizations like the YMCA and local businesses to fund the project. The first phase will be unveiled during the library’s 15th birthday celebration Saturday, Nov. 15, 2 to 4 p.m.

Eannel, who has been the library director since only September, said it has taken time to adjust to her position and decide what could and should be changed.

“It’s kind of nice now, I think we’re all settled in and used to each other,” she said of the increased and more professional staff, which allowed the library to increase its hours in January.

“It’s exciting now,” she said.

The recommended budgets for East Lake library, as well as Palm Harbor Library and Parks and Recreation, must be approved by the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency, likely during the board’s meeting Wednesday, Aug. 20.

Palm Harbor Library

Palm Harbor Library also is celebrating an estimated budget increase, albeit only $5,165 more than last year. The increased budget, estimated at $1,108,040, is the first time since the 2006-2007 year that the library has seen an increase.

The library is set to receive $45,540 more in property tax revenue from its taxing district, but some of these funds are offset by increased insurance costs and a recommended 2 percent pay raise for staff.

The library also achieved savings by outsourcing human resources, negotiating a discount in the new waste service agreement, switching telephone services, no longer subscribing to an under-utilized database, using more efficient interior lighting and paying for a less expensive language data, to name some of the methods.
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