By Jeff Odom
The Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library is set to undergo an expansion at the end of the month that will add more than 10,000 square feet to Hillsborough County’s most-used branch.
According to a release from the county, Jimmie B. Keel, 2902 W. Bearss Ave., will add a new children’s room, an additional community room for public meetings, a larger book store, extra seating for quiet study and a second entrance on the west side of the building for easier access to and from the parking lot.
The county estimates the cost of the project to be $2.08 million and will be funded by property tax dollars through the special library taxing district.
The expansion, along with additional seating for quiet study, excites Lutz resident Cory Puppa, who is also a USF student.
“I heard they’re spending a lot on the construction, and it’s supposed to be nice,” Puppa said.
Rita Mouradian, a student at the University of South Florida (USF), works with the Teen Advisory Board that has its meetings at the library. She said the additional meeting space is welcomed by the members, because the current rooms usually back up quickly and reservations must be made well in advance.
“They’re going to build another community room, which would be absolutely fantastic,” Mouradian said. “The community room we have now isn’t really enough to hold all of our events. Teen Advisory Board has to book the room well in advance in order to secure it for upcoming events.”
Mouradian said the area will be much easier for her to access with the additional space, especially during exam weeks.
“A lot of people come in around exam time to study,” Mouradian said. “If they expand the quiet study area, then that room will fill up less quickly and feel less crowded. I sometimes see private tutors book the community room. With another community room, we can hold more events without getting in each other’s way.”
Senior librarian Kurt Jasielonis said the branch, which has an annual circulation of more than 340,000, is expected to remain open for regular hours throughout the construction. The county estimates the project will be completed by the end of December, but until then there will be some noticeable changes.
“We have all been looking forward to this since last year,” Jasielonis said. “There’s going to be some different things going on with the expansion and the new entrance, and some meeting rooms will be inaccessible (temporarily). It may cause a little bit of nuisance to the public, but in the end it will mean more space.”
Patrons can also expect increased noise levels and temporary walls installed inside the children’s room while construction is ongoing. Some books will be moved to accommodate the renovation as well, but Jasielonis said library employees will help those who need assistance.
Outside the library, a small number of parking spaces will be blocked off and traffic patterns at the entrance may be redirected at times, causing minor congestion. For safety precautions, four disabled parking spaces will be relocated to the front of the building.
For more information, visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org.
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