Winter Park Awaits Completion of $42 Million Library and Events Center

Graphic+by+Emma+Kim+and+Amy+Qiao

Graphic by Emma Kim and Amy Qiao

AVA SAVINO, STAFF WRITER

  For most people, libraries are thought of as a place solely for people who just want to read books. To fight this stigma, recently libraries have been changing what they have to offer to appeal to the interests of all people. The Winter Park Public Library is working towards this goal to transition into the rapidly changing world of the 21st century.

  The City of Winter Park is constructing a brand new Library and Events Center on Morse Blvd across the lake at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park With a budget of $42 million, it is expected to be completed in fall of 2021, according to the City of Winter Park’s website. 

  The old location on 460 E New England Avenue near Rollins College was constructed in 1979, according to the Winter Park Public Library website. The overall space and collection size has now outgrown the old library, prompting plans for a new library. 

  The new building’s architect is Sir David Adjaye, who is renowned for his ambitious projects around the world. According to his firm’s website, Adjaye Associates, when he saw his brother’s specialized school in Tanzania for the handicapped in a rundown condition, he was inspired to make it a more accessible and better place, which later inspired him to become an architect. His biggest and most well known project was the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.. 

  Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary said that he has always supported the new library construction plans because of the opportunity that it provides to citizens.

  “It’s a world-class facility, and this is going to be just a wonderful facility for generations of folks,” Leary said. 

  The project to build the new Winter Park Library came with many challenges and obstacles to overcome, some even before the construction started. Leary said that when the architect proposed suggestions to the plans for the building, the budget that the city had was not enough, so they had to raise more money. Leary said there was also some pushback to approve the plan. 

  There were citizen concerns about the budget and how much money taxpayers would have to contribute to the project. These residents have tried to sue the state Department of Environmental Protection to pause the construction and reconsider certain aspects of the plan. 

  According to an article written in the Orlando Sentinel by Lisa Maria Garza, Winter Park City Commissioner Todd Weaver said that he believes the public was “misled” and the library wasn’t going to be what the public voted for.

  Leary responded by saying the citizens did vote and approve the project, and it was his job as mayor to follow what the public votes for. 

  “I think that the library project is going to be a good project, but if the citizens didn’t vote to approve it, then I would have been fine with that,” Leary said. 

  The new library will feature many brand new and improved features from the old location. Some highlights include new private and public meeting rooms, common areas for reading and socializing, an improved Genius lab with 3D printers, a more diverse catalog of items to borrow from the library such as instruments and fishing poles, and many more amenities. 

  Trinity Prep Librarian Reba Gordon said that one of the main things that creates a good library is having a welcoming environment with friendly people who can help welcome all different types of visitors, not just those wanting to read.  

  “There has to be good access to digital and in person, in hand materials, but I think you also have to think outside the box because people aren’t just looking for books,” Gordon said. 

  The larger gathering spaces and small meeting areas will be great spaces for anything from conferences to tutoring, which will hopefully draw more people to the new facility. 

  Before the coronavirus, Freshman Taylor Riley frequently visited the Winter Park Library and Trinity Prep Library to check out books and spend time reading them. Riley said that she enjoys reading as a form of escape from reality and a chance to immerse herself into the fictional world of a story. 

  “I can just grab a book from [the bookshelf] and I could sit down and start it, see if I like it or not, and see if I want to check it out,” Riley said. 

  Riley is especially excited for the new common area mentioned in the plans of the new library, which she feels will help her socialize and meet more fellow book enthusiasts. 

  With the features, location, and opportunities that the new Winter Park Library and Events Center has to offer, Leary hopes that it will encourage more people to interact with the space and use it to its full potential.

  “We really want you to not just come in to use the facility to check out books, but really take a walk around and see the architecture,” Leary said. “I hope the younger generation can come and see that something that is non-traditionally Winter Park also seems to fit into our space here.”