In the more than three decades since the New River Branch Library was built on S.R. 54 in Wesley Chapel, the only improvement the library had seen — until now — was just a little paint.

That will change in a dramatic way when the branch closes in October 2019 for about six months to receive a complete overhaul.

While the structure of the building won’t change, a spokesperson for Pasco County Libraries says the improvements within the walls of the library will be significant.

The children’s area will be enclosed with safety glass, so that children can make noise inside and not bother the rest of the patrons.

“Parents will be more comfortable,” says Angelo Liranzo, regional manager for Pasco Libraries. “We get a lot of requests from parents who feel embarrassed when their children make noise.”

A teen area also will be closed off with safety glass walls.

“With the glass walls, staff can see in,” he explains. “If teens are in there working on crafts or projects, we can go in there and help them, or we can bring out activities and make sure they have the books they need.”

Another big change will be to the restrooms. There will no longer be large restrooms with multiple stalls, but instead the restrooms will be for individual use and family use. This allows more accessibility for those with disabilities and helps parents who may be pushing a stroller or need to take small children to the restroom.

The library’s meeting room also will be enlarged, by about five (linear) feet, to provide more space. 

A vending area also will be added to provide snacks and drinks for library patrons.

Outside, a new drive-up book drop will allow patrons to return books without getting out of their cars, a convenience for when it’s raining or when the library is closed.

The main area of the library also will be reconfigured to be more open and inviting, with new furniture that moves easily to create a more flexible and more comfortable space.

“Everything is being redesigned,” explains Liranzo. “The staff area will get a little bit smaller to make more room for the public.”

Changes Outdoors, Too

The New River Branch Library already has a community garden, where people can be assigned their own plant bed to raise vegetables, fruits or flowers. At certain times of the year, library staffers will bring out plastic “children’s beds” to fill with dirt and help the library’s youngest patrons learn how to grow their own plants, as well.

The remodel expands the library’s outdoor offerings by adding a learning space. This covered area will provide a place for any activities that are messy or difficult to do indoors, such as playing with sand or making slime, or something like shooting rockets, which can be taught on the patio and moved out from under the roof when it’s time to see the rockets in action.

Liranzo says he expects new plant beds will be added with the remodel, as well. Currently, there is one that is raised for anyone who can’t bend all the way to the ground to garden; he expects additional raised beds will be added, allowing more people the opportunity to garden at the library.

“It really is a community experience,” he explains. “People reserve the beds for as long as they want to use them. They can come anytime for their individual use, or can also come when we have an activity, such as a master gardener talking about different plants or soils.” 

Because the community garden is such an important part of the library, it will be reflected indoors, as well, with a “green wall” and greenery added inside the library interior.

Programs To Go Mobile?

While the library is being remodeled, its programs will still continue.

“We’re going on the road with our programs while the branch is closed,” explains Danielle Lee, the New River branch manager.

Library staff will provide programs and services by working with community partners who are local and easy to find, to continue activities such as book clubs for adults and story times for young children and a drop-off location to return books.

“We’re not leaving the community, just because the building is closing,” says Liranzo. “We invite everybody to join us.”

Some programs are already held off-site, such as a digital book club for adults held at the Zephyrhills Brewing Co. in downtown Zephyrhills one Tuesday a month at 7 p.m.

But others, such as a ukulele jam held the first Saturday of each month, will look for a new home during the construction. Lee and Liranzo think it could be a win-win for a business to bring some new faces into its establishment and for the library to reach people who don’t typically visit the branch.

“For example, we host a “Vets Healing Vets” program, where we use crafts from Healing Vets of America to help veterans with whatever they’re dealing with and take their minds off things,” explains Lee. “We have been facilitating that in the building, and we would like to take it somewhere to reach more veterans, such as a community partner that attract veterans anyway.”

Liranzo and Lee say they are currently looking for locations to hold all the library’s programs during the construction time. If a local business is open to hosting a library program, please call the branch at (813) 788-6375 and ask for Danielle Lee.

How It’s Being Funded

The renovations have been made possible through funding approved by voters last November, through the “Go 4 Pasco” bond initiative. 

“The library remodeling passed with overwhelming support,” explains Liranzo. “Now, we are set out on a mission from the taxpayers to get the remodels going.”

New River is one of the first two branches to receive improvements. The other is the Centennial Park branch in Holiday.

New River is still Wesley Chapel’s only library branch. While Liranzo says he continues to hear from more and more residents who want another Wesley Chapel location, he wants to make sure the residents understand that the planning for that second library is not part of this project.

The New River Branch Library will be closed beginning on October 1 and should reopen in May, of 2020.

“This is a major, major remodeling,” says Liranzo.

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