By CarlÂ Orth | The Suncoast News
Published: April 26, 2008
NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Read all about it! The Pasco County Library System has been named Library of the Year by the Florida Library Association.
Libraries Director Linda Allen said the statewide honor recognizes how far the libraries here have come since she came on board 21 years ago.
Allen credited her hard-working staff for bringing the award to Pasco. “It didn’t have anything to do with me. It was them.”
Even during the Internet age, the Pasco libraries continue to expand, Allen emphasized. Patrons often compliment the varied programs, she said.
“All our indicators are way up this year,” Allen said. Overall circulation is up 4 percent over last year. Internet use on library computers alone is up 19 percent. “Program attendance is way up.” Computer classes typically are full.
This is the second time a library in Pasco County has won Library of the Year honors from the FLA. The New Port Richey Public Library was named the first winner of the award, in 2006.
Innovative programming for children, teens, and adults helped clinch this year’s award for Pasco County libraries, Allen said.
Allen cited programs such as Battle of the Bands XI, the Children’s Adaptive Toy Collection, for special-needs children, and literary speed dating for reading lovers, an innovative adult reading club program. Downloadable books and classical music are proving popular, she said.
The library system has turned a page since its humble origins, Allen recalled.
When Allen came here, in 1987, “there was no library system,” she recalled. “There were four very, very small libraries pretty much operating independently.”
Without centralized ordering of books, staff at one library branch had no way of knowing what books another branch stocked. Most books had been donated, so many tomes were old and out of date, she remembers. Computers were unheard of at a library.
“I thought this would look good on my resume,” Allen said about accepting a job here in 1987, never intending to stay long.
“I forgot to leave,” Allen said with a chuckle after 21 years with Pasco libraries. “That’s an indication of how much fun it is to work here.”
Eventually, the Pasco Library System grew, thanks in large part of a voter-approved bond issue that funded library construction.
Now, however, Allen is bracing for possible budget cuts of about 10 percent. The spending cuts are a result of recent state measures intended to reduce local government property taxes.
As a result, “Nothing is set in stone yet,” Allen said.
Attrition of staff from retirements is the first step toward tightening the library budget belt. Five positions are frozen now, Allen said.
She has no doubts that Pasco libraries will adapt and endure.
Allen and Assistant Libraries Director Stephen Kershner picked up the award last night at the Florida Library Association annual conference, in St. Petersburg.
In the near future, Charles Parker, executive director of the Tampa Bay Library Consortium and the president of the state association, will visit Pasco County to make a presentation, Allen said.