Bruton Memorial Library has evolved over the past year to become a safe and thriving hub for the community.
Bruton Memorial Library has entered a new chapter.
The building itself has a new look and the staff and focus of the organization reflects its evolved mindset. When Paul Shaver took the reins as director of Bruton last fall, one of his many goals was to increase tech at the facility. Little did he know how crucial that decision would be come spring when the COVID-19 pandemic put the entire world on hold.
Thankfully, the library itself was only closed for operations for a short time. Soon it offered curbside pickup. Then the doors were open to the public, though with new regulations in place to keep patrons safe.
Staff members felt the biggest shift in the way they handled scheduled programming. Meeting in large groups was no longer on the table, so the team got creative to find ways to provide their unique services to the masses while keeping everyone safe. The answer led to a new wave of programming — one that staff believes is here is stay.
“It certainly worked out for us to get the team at the time that we did,” Shaver said. “We were faced with the question, ‘How can we use what we have to get even more attendance than ever before?’ Then we had the complete shutdown, which led to conversations with our staff of what we should do going forward. Now we are doing hybrid programs. So, for example, if someone has a projector we can do a story time from here and stream it to the facility to be broadcast on the projector. Now we can do story time at community centers or daycares. We provide a projector as well if they don’t have one. It’s led to us being able to access more people than ever.”
Part of the change has come with the addition of virtual programming. Partnerships with Moffitt Cancer Center have evolved to virtual health seminars. Kelly Libengood, adult services associate, does kits and tutorials including Big Hands Little Hands, EsSewntials, and HandCrafts. There are virtual book clubs, tutorials on face painting and a virtual Master Gardener series.
There is a partnership with the Plant City Family YMCA to make the book club a hybrid. Those who want to come in person and social distance can, and those who want to stream the book club on social media have that option as well.
Amanda Preece, youth services associate, does virtual story times and builds kits virtually with children and their parents. Kids can pick up take home activity kits called Boredom Busters each week that are compiled around a unique theme. The children’s programs in particular would routinely pack out the event room, so Preece has had to find ways to bring that engagement and educational experience into local children’s homes. She’s also done story time in person at schools and daycares.
The library operates at 25 percent capacity and has a maximum occupancy sensor at the door to help easily and quickly notify staff when the room is filling.
When Halloween rolled around, Bruton took the festivities outside with socially distanced kiosks and activities around the library. At Christmas, Santa and Mrs. Claus were on a patio and kids got to phone in to talk to the Clauses. It was a massive hit and families have asked for it to continue for years to come.
Using CARES ACT funding, the city was also able to deliver some major upgrades to the building. New floors, better electric plug ins, laptop kiosk cubicles and several other major changes make the library feel like a new facility. Shaver said there are still many more changes to come and he hopes that by the time they’re done, Bruton will be perfectly poised to answer the call of the changing community.
On top of the new additions to the facility, the library also has new inventory. There have been many new books added to the shelves as old materials were replaced and a partnership with the county provided 300 Spanish-language materials. It fills a hole Shaver identified immediately upon becoming director and he said he’s looking forward to continuing to improve the foreign-language offerings at Bruton.
“This library reflects the city, it reflects this community,” Shaver said. “Here we really do get the full range of patrons. Some want to come and have access to our tech, some want to use our study rooms, some want foreign language materials, others want audio books, families come and check out books and then pick up a DVD to take home. It’s our job to make sure that we have inventory that reflects the people we serve.”
And the pandemic has changed the culture of the community. Patrons are interacting with the library in ways they never had before. There’s been an influx in demand for books and each individual patron is checking out far more items per person than before. The cap is 35 items per person and it’s not uncommon for patrons to hit the limit, especially with no more late fees. The HAAL Pass system also allows every student enrolled in the county to check items out.
The kits that are available for families to pick up to do activities with their children fly off the shelves every week. People are taking advantage of the fact that you can get e-books, digital newspapers/magazines, stream audiobooks for free, check out and listen to digital CDs and stream movies all with your library card without ever having to set foot inside the library. Hillsborough County’s library system even has a system in place where you can have a book mailed to your house. It’s been a godsend for those who don’t yet feel safe going out in public in the middle of a pandemic.
The demand for outdoor events has increased as well. In response, Bruton has many upcoming outdoor events in the works including movie nights on the lawn where the community can social distance on the lot behind the library and watch a film on a large inflatable screen. A bookmobile is also on the horizon that will travel to local communities.
The city will soon install a kiosk at the library so you can pay your bills with the touch of a button. This will help make sure the library is a hub for the community to go to and meet multiple needs at once.
If you would like to get a library card, all you need is to bring some identification with your address to prove you live in Hillsborough County. That can be a driver’s license or even a passport.
To keep up to date on all of the offerings at Bruton, follow them @BrutonMemorialLibrary on Facebook and Instagram or call 813-757-9215.