By September, South County residents could be learning how to work new kinds of hardware and software programs alike that a few years ago seemed like something out of a futuristic novel.
The best part is that these things and many more will be available at the South Shore Library off 19th Avenue in Ruskin thanks to an agreement between Hillsborough County and two 501(c)3 charitable organizations: The Community Foundation of Greater Sun City Center and The Friends of the SouthShore Library.
“In the past, people thought of libraries as places to store things,” said Jim Duffy, “Friends” president for every year (except this one) since the library was built. “Eight years and it was time to move on,” Duffy said, after turning over the helm to H&R Block owner John Smith. “The two major changes that have taken place in media are the printing press and the computer. Media is what delivers the content, and content is exploding. We have to keep up. Since the days when important events and edicts were written in stone or on papyrus, there has been a steady progression in what was stored.”
Even now, people think of libraries as being mostly places where books are stored, but for years now they have also been places where learning takes place, Duffy said.
“The SouthShore Library has more programs than any other library in the county system,” he said.
Smith and others connected with the library say that is because Duffy himself has been the grant writer. He sees a need and “sells the idea” to others who can fund it.
Children’s story time, English as a Second Language, painting, cartooning, book club meetings, art demonstration and so many more subjects have been taught in the John Crawford Art Studio and the other places where they best fit.
These are funded by “Friends.”
“The bread and butter of the Friends [of the library] has been the bookstore,” said Smith. “It brought in $50,000 last year.”
That’s a lot of donated books, said senior librarian Allie Brazis as she showed off the donated book room and tables that had overflowed outside into the hall.
Some books were marked 50 cents or $1. Naturally, college prep or college course books are higher, but then, new, some of those sell for almost $100 each.
Duffy said between $35,000 and $50,000 a year comes in from events and donated books.
Now, however, content has exploded in the computer age, and there are two glassed-in rooms in the south side of the library where computer classes have been taught. They will be used as new media rooms, starting with classes and practice on iPhones, tablets, laptops, and various editing equipment.
“It’ll be possible for someone to take a video on their iPhone and take it in and edit it to make it a professional quality,” he said.
This is a joint three-way project because the county library system is supplying the space and operating costs of that space, and the “Friends” group is supplying the equipment with help from “Friends” like the Sun City Center Foundation.
“The Friends is giving $7,500, and the Foundation is giving $7.500. There will be a lot of Apple equipment,” Duffy said.
“Since time began, the media has carried messages, but the content is the message. They work together, and now that content is so vast, the ways of using media must change again,” he added.
Children as young as four and teens are being taught “keyboarding.”
Still, no one interviewed believed the printed books will ever disappear.
Meanwhile, Friends of the SouthShore Library intends to keep up to date.
Residents and visitors should begin to see changes and new things available in the “Media Lab” sometime in September.
For more information about the Friends of SouthShore Library, visit www.southshorefriends.com.