LeVar Burton, former host of the children’s educational show, “Reading Rainbow,” would have probably been delighted at the youth turnout at the unveiling of the design for the new Gulf Gate Library.
More than 20 members of the Gulf Gate Teen Advisory Board, a group that organizes events such as a recent “Hunger Games” party and “Quidditch” matches (from “Harry Potter”) at the library, filed in to check out the renderings. The teens, aged 12 to 19, browsed the six easels and commented on designs their opinions helped, in part, to craft.
“We finally feel like our voices are being heard,” said Caleb Hill, 19, while waiting for space to clear in front of the library drawings.
Coleman Knott, project manager for the $7.5 million library renovation, explained in a phone interview that space became such a problem at the current Gulf Gate Library there were several instances in which lecture audiences had to be capped to stay within fire safety codes.
But the county and companies involved held two public meetings this year to make sure the library, which has served as a community center for Gulf Gate residents, is as close to patron specifications as possible. The next open house is scheduled for Aug. 8, but Knott said there would likely be another meeting scheduled between now and then to update the public on the project’s progress.
During the open house there were few negative reactions to the new library, which will be more than double the size of the previous building, although there were concerned looks at first glimpse of the large structure.
“It was so cozy,” said library regular June Haas about the nook her book club meets in at the old library. “But I heard they’re putting in a copper ceiling,” she explained, “just like the old library.”
Large pads of paper flanked the renderings at the open house for participants who wanted to share comments publicly. Only three comments had been left by the end of the evening, but their specificity shows how much residents care about the library.
“Large scale collections — please don’t place these books on the lower shelf. Hard to reach for older patrons,” said the first note.
Now, Public Works will begin estimating specific costs of the project. This includes exploring minor details like the color and style of carpeting for each room.
“At one point, (those involved in the project) considered using stained wood on the outside of the building,” Knott said. “But operational costs down the road were too great.”
Mechanical and electrical engineers, heating-and-air specialists and architects will come together for a meeting the first week in June to consider public opinions and analyze the efficiency of the design, Knott said. “Everyone is starting to get on board and it really ramps up from here,” he said.
The rapid growth in popularity of e-books, which pushed the portion of Americans using tablets or e-readers from 10% to 19% over the latest holiday, shows how quickly reading technology is advancing, something Knott wants to be reflected in a modern and flexible design.
“Libraries are so much more than people thought they could be,” Knott said. “They’ve morphed into something more than a place to go to check out books.”
Sarasota County is still looking for rental properties to house the library’s collections during the construction.
A timely trophy
Architects unveiled conceptual plans for the new Gulf Gate Library the same week directors, librarians, staff and volunteers of the Sarasota County Library System gathered at the Sarasota County Commission chambers to receive praise for winning the 2012 Library of the Year Award.
The award, which was presented by the Florida Library Association the weekend of April 18, in Orlando, is given to library systems that stand out creatively and operationally.
1973 — Gulf Gate library opens on Gateway Avenue in response to the busy bookmobile in the parking lot of the Gulf Gate Mall. It was originally called the Betty Service Branch Library, named after a local librarian.
1978 — Library moves to two storefronts on Gateway Avenue, with Marian Butler as the one full-time librarian.
1983 — Gulf Gate Library opens with three full-time librarians.
May 24, 2012 — Design for new library unveiled.
June 26, 2012 — Public Works to present progress to Sarasota County Commission.
January 2013 — Project expected to begin.
January 2014 — Expected completion date of Gulf Gate Library.
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