The Hugh Embry Branch Library is closed for remodeling and the Land O’ Lakes Branch Library soon will close for a makeover, too.
Meanwhile, in just a few weeks, the new Starkey Theatre, Library and Cultural Center will open in the Starkey Ranch development, off State Road 54, in Odessa.
Hugh Embry has been cleared of its contents, with construction set to start on remodeling the 7,223-square-foot library. The $2 million project is expected to be completed by mid-2022, according to Bob Harrison, marketing program manager for the Pasco County Library Cooperative.
Meanwhile, the 18,169-square-foot branch library in Land O’ Lakes is scheduled to close on Aug. 14, in preparation for its remodeling. That project is estimated at $4.75 million, and is expected to wrap up by late 2022.
Despite the difference in size, both libraries will be getting the same treatment, Harrison said.
“Both of these libraries were built, I believe, in the ’80s, and they are well overdue for a complete remodel,” Harrison said.
The two branches will get new furnishings, new lighting, faster broadband, new computers and printers for the public, Harrison said.
“It’s a top-to-bottom remodel. Floor-to-ceiling. Everything is brand new. Literally, from the floor coverings to the wall, to the ceiling treatments,” he said.
Space is being reconfigured at both libraries to maximize the space available for public programming, Harrison added.
In-person programs were curtailed by COVID-19, but the library system hopes to be able to resume those in the fall.
“We really can’t wait to get into some of these new spaces and start doing some of the in-person programs,” Harrison said. “That’s really what the public wants.”
At the same time, though, some remote programs introduced during COVID-19 will be retained, because they are popular and they meet a need, he said.
Funding for the library renovations is coming from proceeds of general obligation bonds that were approved through a referendum in 2018, with a 66% approval rating from voters, Harrison said.
But, he also noted that it’s not feasible to keep the libraries open while doing the upgrades.
To try to mitigate the impacts, the library system has staggered the branch closings.
For instance, Hugh Embry wasn’t closed until the New River Branch Library was reopened.
It also is looking for alternative locations where patrons can pick up book holds, to minimize the distance people have to drive to borrow materials, he added.
As the Hugh Embry and Land O’ Lakes branches are temporarily closed, the Starkey Ranch Theatre, Library and Cultural Center, referred to as the TLC, will be having its soft opening from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Aug. 2.
The TLC is on the campus of the Starkey K-8 School, at 12200 Lake Blanche Drive in Odessa, and is the result of a collaboration between Pasco County and Pasco County Schools.
“During school hours, the children and the teen area will be closed off to the public and will remain available to the kids. Once school is over, then we open it up to everybody,” Harrison said.
The library has a 250-seat theater and the library system’s first Maker Space for ceramics, he added. “There’s a pottery wheel. There’s a kiln.”
Future plans also call for a library in Seven Oaks, in Wesley Chapel.
“It’ll probably be about three years down the road,” Harrison said. “That community has been clamoring for a library close to them.”
Published July 28, 2021