Sarasota County residents could be enjoying a new state-of-the-art Gulf Gate Library by the end of 2013. Sarabeth Kalajian, director of the Sarasota County Library System, says the library is ready for an upgrade.
Today, she said, libraries are more than just a place to check out a book. People visit libraries to take classes, hold meetings, use technology labs and more. Based on circulation rate alone, the Gulf Gate library is the busiest in the county, and designs for the new library reflect this, as well as the popularity of features seen in other libraries.
“Gulf Gate is bursting at the seams in essentially every aspect,” said Kalajian. “We see an opportunity for what this can mean to the community.”
Sarasota County staff and representatives from the project’s contracted architectural firm, Harvard Jolly, were present at a second open-house meeting held Thursday, March 29. Area residents were invited to see early designs of the new library, ask questions and contribute their ideas.
“We want to hear from the public,” said Ward Friszolowski, executive vice president of Harvard Jolly, at the meeting. “There’s still a lot more work to be done, and we want their input.”
An open house in February allowed community members to brainstorm ideas for the library’s design, but this meeting marked the first time residents could see Harvard Jolly’s preliminary designs.
According to Project Manager Coleman Knott, construction of the new $7.5 million library is scheduled to begin in late 2012 to early 2013 and could be completed by the end of 2013 or early 2014.
The original library, built in 1984, is approximately 17,300 square feet and will see an approximate 50% increase in size. Library floor plans displayed at the meeting showed a two-story, 25,800-square-foot building, which, among other features, will now be more centrally located on the existing lot.
“Having a two-story design will shrink the footprint and allow for more parking space on either side of the library,” said Knott.
The library is currently on the north end of the lot, and as parking fills up near the entrance, guests who park on the south end have a farther walk to the front door.
The new library will be centered in the parking lot and will increase the library’s available parking spaces to 110 to 115.
Other features include two book drops with an automated sorting system, a youth garden and reading garden, larger meeting rooms and technology labs and a larger youth area.
“Libraries now aren’t like the ones we grew up with,” said Knott. “They’re more like community centers.”
The new library will be built in the same location, which is a plus for its regular patrons who enjoy the lobby’s natural light, although a temporary relocation is being considered during construction.
“If the community is okay with moving it out, it could allow for quicker construction,” said Friszolowski. “It would be more convenient in the long-term.”
The project is still in the design phase, and a selection committee has interviewed four contractors, one of whom will be selected to serve as construction manager for the new library.
BY THE NUMBERS
$7.5 million — Construction price for the new Gulf Gate Library
1984 — Year the Gulf Gate Library was built
2 — Book drops with an automated sorting system in the new library
25,800 — Square feet of the new library
110 to 115 — Number of parking spaces at the new library
4,000 — Number of volumes in the original library, which opened in 1973, then called the Betty Service Branch Library
3,000 — Number of books circulated within the first month of the Betty Service Branch Library opening
50,000 — Number of books currently circulated per month at the library
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