ST. PETE BEACH — From November until May, the St. Pete Beach Library will likely be relocated into a vacant storefront with storage area at 7470 Gulf Blvd., between 75th Avenue and Corey Avenue, while its current repository at 365 73rd Ave. undergoes a $1.5 million renovation.
During the comments portion of the Aug. 13 City Commission meeting, City Manager Alex Rey said library staff conducted an extensive search to determine the best location to temporarily relocate the library so that it can remain in operation.
Rey explained renovation to the roof and interior of the 8,200-square-foot library building, which was constructed in 1969 and partially refurbished in 1995, should begin in November.
“In order to continue operations of the library we looked at a myriad of opportunities from what is available to rent, to facilities owned by us, and to renting double wide trailers,” Rey said.
Betcinda Kettells, library director, presented a report to commissioners outlining the library’s search for temporary quarters. She told commissioners the ideal location for interim operation would be “to come as close to the library’s 8,200 square feet as possible, in a place where it can provide a centralized level of service that allows the library to maintain current operations. “
“We’d like to continue to operate in the way we have been operating, as much as it is possible. The decision point is the storage of materials and whether or not we have access to those materials,” she said.
The library director said after an extensive search the building at 7470 Gulf Blvd. provides “the best opportunity to maintain library services as they are now. The only thing we would lose out on is the programs, because we just don’t have a programming space available.”
This was the only facility the city found that has a contiguous space for storage in the back of the storefront for a total of 6,273 square feet, she said.
The storefront location on Gulf Boulevard is by far the best option, because it’s all been renovated, Kettels said.
“The only thing that hasn’t been renovated is the floor, so we have to look into some flooring options. There’s no mold, there’s no mildew, there’s adequate lighting, adequate electrical outlets and the air conditioning is brand new,” she explained.
She said the location is near the current library and has plenty of parking spaces.
“The storefront portion is really a nice-looking space; it’s almost move-in ready, other than the floor. I’m confident we can fit everything in that back space,” Kettells said.
Commissioner Melinda Pletcher said “it sounds like a great plan. I was so worried about where there would be a great space for you. I think it will work out nicely.”
She quipped that the city probably hurt its ability to bargain a lease price after such a glowing report.
During their search, the librarians considered leasing space in a building at 339 Corey Ave., but it only provided 2,200 square feet of space and would require the city to find a supplemental storage area.
The city also considered a building at 4665 Dolphin Village, but it only provided 2,000 square feet of space, and would also require the city to find additional storage for its collection.
In considering other options, the city contemplated renting two double-wide trailers, but they also were not large enough to contain the library’s extensive collection.
The city also pondered using a portion of the Don Vista Cultural Arts Center or Warren Webster Community Center, but that would require switching either center’s offerings to the other facility and relocating the library’s children’s section to the Community Center. Programs and groups that use or rent space at both Warren Webster and Don Vista would be disrupted.
Mayor Alan Johnson questioned how any of the relocation options affect the library’s relationship with other libraries in the Pinellas Library Cooperative.
Kettells explained being part of the cooperative is an important component in the library’s operations.
“Not only do we offer materials that we own to residents, we also offer our materials to all the libraries in the Pinellas cooperative, and they in turn offer all their materials to us. Books are moving continually between branches,” she said.
“If we don’t have access to all of our materials, we won’t be able to loan them out and those libraries in turn won’t necessarily be willing to loan materials to our residents. That’s a big part of our operation; we have a courier come daily with crates of books and other materials that are being returned to our library from use in the north county, or being loaned to our library patrons. It’s a big part of our operations; if we don’t have access to the books and other materials that cooperative spirit is in jeopardy,” she said.
City commissioners authorized the city manager to enter into negotiations to design a lease to rent 7470 Gulf Blvd. for six months. The lease will have to be formally approved at a future commission meeting.