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Lakewood Ranch Library fosters a culture around community

Tiffany Mautino shares why libraries remain relevant — and why they are key in the fight for intellectual freedom.

The new Lakewood Ranch Library features 45,000 items, including books, audiobooks, musical instruments and DVDs.
The new Lakewood Ranch Library features 45,000 items, including books, audiobooks, musical instruments and DVDs.
Photo by Harry Sayer
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Pamella McDonald spent $50 a month on comic books in the early 1990s when the cover prices were still around a buck a piece. She didn’t keep them as collectibles, but it was money well spent. 

“That was what I would read,” her daughter Tiffany Mautino says. “I did a book report on a comic book in the fourth grade, and I got an F. My mother marched into the elementary school and protested. She was a very early advocate that comic books were a gateway drug into reading.” 

Mautino is an avid reader now. In fact, she has such an interest in books and reading that she was hired last year to serve as the branch manager for the new Lakewood Ranch Library.

Mautino grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. Her childhood dream was to become a comic book artist. As an adult, she found that her passions for both art and reading met at the library. 

Mautino started out as a part-time employee creating display installations for the Mid-Continent Public Library System in Kansas City, and rose to the position of manager at the South Independence branch. She also became a nationwide speaker on the topic of intellectual freedom — a core value of librarianship. Mautino was a founding member of the Intellectual Freedom Committee within her own library system and served as chair for the Missouri Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee. In 2013, she started presenting an intellectual freedom workshop for library frontline staff in Missouri. Over the past two years, she’s presented the workshop at conferences nationwide.

Tiffany Mautino is the branch manager for the new Lakewood Ranch Library. She’s also a nationwide speaker on the topic of intellectual freedom.
Photo by Harry Sayer

“Tiffany is really good at training staff,” Manatee County Library Services Manager Tammy Parrott says. “Intellectual freedom is making sure staff are prepared to be in that neutral place in the community and not put their own values on any of their work. Tiffany wouldn’t recommend a book to me because she liked the book. She’d think about what I wanted in a book.”

We spoke to Mautino recently about what she was reading, the relevancy of brick-and-mortar libraries and her wishes and challenges.

What books are on your nightstand right now?

“Sandman Slim” by Richard Kadrey — an urban fiction fantasy novel. I’ve got “Fourth Wing” on there, which is not normally my style, but it’s the big, new book for young adults. I’ve also got the last “Outlander” book by Diana Gabaldon. 

What’s the last great book you read?

The last really, really great book I read was part of a nine-book series called “The Expanse” by James S. A. Corey. It’s a space opera that follows the crew of the Rocinante, which is their spaceship. There are multiple narrators and viewpoints. The last book finished up, and it was an epic taking place across multiple universes. There were zombies in it at one point, and obviously, aliens and wormholes. 

How can we inspire kids to pick up a book?

Don’t pigeonhole them. They don’t have to read “Huck Finn” or “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Find out how they want to read. If it’s comic books, great; if it’s audiobooks that they can follow along with or if they’re more interested in reading blogs, why not? We probably need to focus on expanding our idea of what literature is. 

The 25,000-square-foot Lakewood Ranch Library is the only project that has been completed at Premier Park.
Photo by Harry Sayer
Are brick-and-mortar libraries still relevant? 

Tammy calls us the “People’s University.” That’s why we’ll always be relevant. We’re not charging people or requiring anybody to purchase anything or even be a cardholder to enjoy the fact that we have a space that’s inclusive for everyone. Libraries allow you to come in and explore for yourself without anyone saying you should be doing this or that, like in school. That’s a very guided education. In libraries, it’s freeform.

What are your top wishes for this library?

The community has been waiting for this library to open for years, so my first wish is that we exceed everybody’s expectations for what a modern library in Manatee County can be. Beyond that, my wish is that we can foster a culture around customer service and community. I want to make sure that we provide programming that represents everybody in our community.

What challenges do you anticipate?

We can make projections, but they’re just projections, so the largest challenge is going at it a little bit blind and hoping we’re hitting the marks close enough that we can make adjustments as we go along.



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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