“Typically when people think of libraries, they think of books,” Harrison told local business leaders on July 20, during a Lunch n’ Learn program in the Don Porter Boardroom at the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce (WCCC), which sponsored the event. “But, we’re so much more than just books.”
Harrison said area libraries are taking a quantum leap into the future with a litany of new services offered to both small businesses and residents of Pasco County.
Although the image of libraries may be of dusty old bookshelves and gray-haired librarians demanding total silence, one of the first services detailed by Harrison was the addition in many county libraries of community meeting rooms.
Space is subject to availability, but having a public space to meet can be an asset for a small business or organization. Heck, just look around at any coffee shop during the day, and you can see all kinds of business meetings taking place. The library not only offers free internet, but also low-cost printers and copiers.
“We are trying to become part of the Maker Movement that’s sweeping the nation right now,” Harrison said. “The libraries have jumped into it.”
Maker Spaces, as they are dubbed, are being created across the county’s seven branches in Hudson, Regency Park, Centennial Park, South Holiday, Hugh Embry, Land O’ Lakes and the New River branch library at 34043 S.R. 54 in Wesley Chapel.
The New River library has a meeting room that can accommodate up to 30 people, and does not even require a library card to book, which can be done at PascoLibraries.org.
Adrienne Hymes, Missioner for the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida, sees it as an opportunity, as she said her church is looking to incorporate new members from the Wesley Chapel area.
“We are trying to establish a church in Wesley Chapel, and we need options for meeting spaces,” Hymes said.
Additionally, Pasco’s libraries offer a conduit to the WCCC and to the Pasco County Economic Development Council (EDC).
With that access, potential or existing business owners can learn the ins and outs of how to start and/or run a business in the county, and receive direction to the appropriate places for permitting or licensing information that goes beyond a typical Google search.
All you need is a library card.
AtoZDatabases.com, for example, offers access to business listings not just in the county, but nationwide. The site is a subscription site, but can be used for free at the library. The site says that while Google and other search engines are valuable tools, they are limited to simple searches. AtoZDatabases can handle more complex questions, and returns the information in a consistent format.
“All the information you need is in one place,” Harrison says.
Pasco County library card holders also can access Demographics Now, a database that gathers information from the US Census from 2000 and 2010, as well other sources. There, users can find information about population density, income, ethnicity, even retail spending figures on households — information that can be vital when deciding whether to start a new business and where it might be most successful.
“I already have a (Pasco library) card, I just didn’t know these services were available,” said Roslyn Yee, founder of Vibrant Life International, a wellness consulting company in Lutz. “I like to be able to research companies. Now, it looks like I can do this from the comfort of my own home.”
Another invaluable tool in Pasco County Libraries’ online arsenal is access to Lynda.com, a popular online training company that offers more than 6,000 video courses on business, technology, software and marketing, to name just a few.
Users can access videos teaching Adobe products like Photoshop or Creative Suite, and other programs. You can learn how to shoot better photos with your DSLR camera, or how to how to master WordPress.
The site boasts more than 1,200 design courses, and over 700 web development and design courses. Lynda.com was acquired by LinkedIn, and typically requires a monthly fee.
However, with a library card, users can access the premium version through the library website. All library cardholders need is their online access password, and they can even use the service from their home or office computers.
It’s all part of Pasco County Libraries’ vision for the future.
“We see a future for the county library system being heavy on tech and all community-driven,” Harrison said.
That includes things like a Community Garden Maker Space at the New River branch, a new sound studio being built at the Hudson branch and a woodworking shop at the Land O’ Lakes branch.
Volunteers help staff the spaces and libraries are always seeking more volunteers. The ideas for new services are generated by feedback from the community.
“We want residents to drive it,” said Harrison. “We want the library to be more than a knowledge center, we want it to be a hub for the community.”
During the WCCC workshop, Harrison said that Pasco’s libraries spend only $12 per person per year, while the average spent by the rest of the state’s counties is $26 per person.
“We are good stewards of your tax dollars,” Harrison said. “But, as the county grows, we expect to be able to offer additional services as demand grows.”
Southern Pasco County, especially the Wesley Chapel area, is booming with growth. A growing property tax base, along with a 501 (c)(3) Friends of the Library charitable organization, are primarily responsible for funding the library’s current leap into the 21st Century.
For additional information, visit PascoLibraries.org