Northpinellas: Coming soon: Library World

Bob Cox writes St. Petersburg Times has a story about a library which is the "wave of the future!"

"Clearwater's huge new library is the wave of the future: a cultural destination full of light, art, reading matter, views, computers and designer coffees."

See info on the new library from their home page here. - Amke


It is a nice facility, but we can't afford it. They spent two years deciding what to build, and rather than choose the functional albeit plain design that they could afford they went with the 20 million dollar design they they can't.

This is from the same city who can't afford to give the firefighters a 3% annual raise. This is also from the city who hires people with undergraduate degrees - and only undergraduate degrees- to positions called "librarian". Although the current director John Szabo did speak about the need for the MLS at the Florida Library Association when he was president this year. I did write him for clarification and he said that they do perfer MLS graduates, but they have to take what the city HR department sends them. However if you have an MLS but never worked in a library you're disqualified for not having library experience. ( Even if you worked for a big consulting firm's business intelligence unit and taught Dialog, LexisNexis, Factiva, and other tools and worked with MLS grads providing competative intelligience - trust me I know personally. HR sent me a post card with no library experience written on it).

That said it is nice, however it really should have been built with private money and leased to the city. The city of Clearwater also owns a three story department store in the same block that it uses as a convention center. Although they only use one complete floor of it as it is rented out to a restaurant and a department store (Stein Mart). So rather than using the building they already have standing and rented out the built a new one. The city should not be in the real estate rental business.

The new building is really nice, I drive past it on my way to visit my mother on the beach. I'm sure it will be a beautiful library when it is finished. I also have been keeping up on the progress on the library website, on/index.asp .

Lots of things will not be installed when the library opens, WiFi won't be in, it won't be completely furnished. But on the bright side the Pseudo-Starbucks will be open, and the rooftop terrace which can be rented for special events will be open. But then here we go again with the city being a landlord. Does the library want to deal with library related work, or does it want to be a reservation sevice for its rooftop terrace gatherings.

The Clearwater City Commisssion is really out of touch with the residents of the city. We recently had an election and one of the referendum questions was about downtown redevelopment and handing public space over to private developers on long term leases to encourage redevelopment. Yes, more city as a landlord nonsense. It failed and the mayor threw a tantrum. They behave as if it is their city and theirs alone.

Many residents of Clearwater have lost confidence in their city government, we have a traffic circle that is a nightmare that was built a few years ago with a 5 million dollar fountain. The fountain had to be removed because drivers could not see other cars in the circle. The whole thing was bulldozed to leave only a grassy circle to replace the five way intersection that was there. On the bright side the ambulance business is up as the number of accidents has tripled!

The city pushed the state for moeny to repalce a drawbridge to the beach, but the new bridge under construction is falling down before it is finished. The contractors have done such poor work that it has been halted. This is after their previous poor work required them to blow up a section of the bridge and rebuild it. (It was a spiffy demolition I went to watch it. They did it in the wee hours of the morning in case they knocked the old but functional bridge down.)

The city manager recently said that he will not agreee to a new contract with the firefighters that gives them more than his last offer while he is alive. Fantastic now the firefighters on which we depend to protect our property and our lives are upset -and have been for more than a year- and are leaving for better paying jobs in nearby towns. The city has been advertising for firefighters and paramedics continuously for more than a year on the city HR web site. The police got an acceptablel deal from the city manager, the firefighters just want the same deal, but the city manager refuses to give it saying the city can't afford it. Speaking as a librarian I would rather work in a closet with good fire protection than a palace without.

But they can afford a new library/coffee bar/wedding chapel that they can rent out.

Don't look for me working there; they won't hire me I have an MLS (they may now after some experience but they are not hiring more staff becuase they can't afford it). However I will have a venti mocha frappachino.

Does everything have to have a gimmick? It seems to me that the city fathers don't have a clue about what exactly a library is and how its serves the public. This direction sounds like a failing sports team in dire need to fill empty seats. When will people understand that the target audience of a library and its needs should be examined before money is spent. Libraries are Not Barnes and Noble, they serve a differnt purpose and provide a different service. Book stores have gimmick to be able to sell their goods. Libraries are an information resource that people should turn to when they require information. Making a library an amusmement park is both the wrong message and will not succeed. Furthermore it looks like someone on the city council with a lot of pull thought of an innovation which was not properly investigated. Are we the champions of the league of information or are we the desparate cellar dwellers looking for a crowd

They took the library director, "promoted" her to the city's quality of life administrator (a nonsense post) and then gave her stuff to do other than managing the library. I wonder why she quit. Oh, she was not going along with the plans to waste 20MM on a new library by the way.

Who was behind this project? In Philly they engaged a high level Architect to renovate the central branch on Logan Square. The Mayor's office even pledged 36$ million for the project. The entire project is over $100 million. The President of the Free Library keeps saying how important this project is to the system. This is in the face of severe cutbacks which have stopped all purchasing until July. I wrote several letters to the Philadelphia Inquirer on the subject and they were all printed. Maybe ALA should stop playing politics in international relations and start lobbying for those things that vitally affect our profession and public service.