By B.C. Manion
Tampa Hillsborough Public Libraries is gearing up to celebrate the system’s 100th anniversary in 2014, and staffers are visiting each of the system’s 25 branches to gather artifacts and stories to preserve the history.
Margaret Rials, the system’s chief librarian, is heading up the Library History Roadshow. She and staff members made a stop at the Lutz Branch Library on June 28 to scan documents and photos while collecting memories from the community.
Historian Susan MacManus was on hand to share photographs and stories of Lutz and Land O’ Lakes, two communities that have been linked together by churches, schools, businesses and a highway now known as US 41, initially known as SR 5 to the area’s earliest pioneers.
Although not many people were bringing in artifacts or memories to share on Saturday, Rials and staff were able to scan in materials at the library’s archives. She is confident more will turn up.
Lutz residents have a reputation for being connected to their community and their community’s story, or as Rials put it: “They are very history-minded.
“It would be wonderful to get an early library card from here,” Rials said, or an artifact from the original library building. “We’d love to get an opening day program.”
Rials said an earlier stop at the now closed Old Hyde Park Branch Library turned up the original sign, which was in someone’s garage. She thinks similar artifacts and memories will turn up from Lutz residents.
“We get very touching stories about what the library meant, still means to people,” Rials said, noting they put together brief videos of those recollections.
Some share their memory of going to the library as a child or reminisce about getting their first library card.
Others remember the first book they read or talk about the impact that using the library has had on their life.
Rials would love to see someone do a documentary about the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Libraries system and have its premiere during its 100th anniversary year. “We just don’t have the staff or the expertise to do it.”
However, she has been thinking that might make a great documentary project for University of South Florida filmmaking students to do.
Robin Gibson, the site supervisor of the Lutz Branch, was thrilled to have the Roadshow drop by. She said many of the community’s founding families have descendants who routinely visit the library, along with newcomers.
“On a weekly basis, I must have two or three people who come in who are new to the community and would like to know more about the library or Lutz,” Gibson said. She added, “We always pull out Susan’s (Susan MacManus) two books to start them because everything is documented in there.”
The timing of the library system’s centennial is convenient because it is being celebrated in 2014, the year after Lutz will pull out the stops to celebrate its community’s 100th birthday.
Like many things in this sometimes contentious community that crosses the Hillsborough and Pasco county lines — there’s even a debate over what year Lutz was formed.
“There’s an argument in this community about when Lutz became Lutz. Lutz is not an incorporated place,” said MacManus, who along with her mother, the late Elizabeth Riegler MacManus, wrote two massive local history books about the communities of Lutz and Land O’ Lakes.
“They’re having the 100th year anniversary in 1913 because that’s when the post office opened. But it was named, really, in 1911,” MacManus said, during a talk about the community’s history during the Roadshow’s stop in Lutz.
No matter which year it was, the community is gearing up to celebrate Lutz in all of its glory.
The big ceremony will be during the community’s annual Fourth of July bash.
But there will be smaller celebrations all year long at the library, Gibson said.
She envisions a Saturday night band, a Saturday afternoon movie, a cooking demonstration and all sorts of other old-fashioned fun.
She has a sense of what Lutz people enjoy.
When plans were being made for refreshments at the Roadshow stop, Gibson said she knew just the thing: “Lutz is red-checkered table cloths and lemonade and cookies.”
And, judging from the crowd’s response, she was right.
For more information about the Library History Roadshow call Margaret Rials at (813) 272-6341 or visit www.thplhistoryroadshow.blogspot.com.
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