By Tamas Mondovics

To celebrate a century-long history, Hillsborough County Public Library (HCPL) officials are asking area resident and library patrons to check their closets, attics and garages for photographs or memorabilia in connection with their neighborhood library.

The effort is part of what organizers passionately and appropriately call, “The Centennial Project” ahead of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Libraries’ 100th anniversary to be celebrated in 2014.

“To prepare, we have partnered with the Tampa Bay History Center, the Friends of the Library of Tampa-Hillsborough County, and other community partners and present the Library History Roadshow, as a way to collect pieces of our history,” said chief librarian Margaret Rials.

Rials explained that the project began last year with the Library History Roadshow, a traveling event that makes stops at library branches throughout Hillsborough County through 2013 to gather, as well as document, the communities’ library memories, photographs and memorabilia.

“Our goal is to reach all 25 branches by January 2014,” Rials said

At each stop along the way, the Roadshow features the host library as well as four libraries that closed many years ago, which includes the main library; 24 branch libraries; the Bookmobile; the Spanish language Cybermobile; the Talking Book Library; and two city-operated libraries.

So far, the Library History Roadshow has made more than a dozen stops to collect memories and historic treasures and will continue until all the branches are visited.

One of the show’s most exciting future stops on the list is the Bloomingdale Regional Library, located on Bloomingdale Av. just east of Bloomingdale High School.

In the middle of an additional 10,000 sq. ft., expansion project, today the library boasts of being one of the most visited and thus, busiest libraries in the area, handling close to 60,000 items per month, not to mention the hundreds of programs which welcome approximately 10,000 in attendance.

Plans to expand the 15,000 sq. ft. facility began two years ago, following funds that became available in the library’s budget.

“This is one of the busiest libraries in the county and there is no doubt we need a bigger facility to accommodate our visitors both young and old,” said Friends of the Library member Carol Jones last month.

The project has a hard construction budget of approximately $1,850,000 which will include 10,000 square feet of new space and roughly 3,600 sq. feet of renovations to the existing facility.

Such work fits quite well in the organization’s centennial project with its goal of creating a digital library archive, staff and volunteers work onsite at each Library History Roadshow to digitally scan photos and other printed items that residents bring, while attendees delight in recording video and audio stories that share their historical knowledge and experiences.

“This is a wonderful way to re-enforce a sense of community,” Rials said. “Besides the photos and the memories it opens a way for our residents to express what their library truly means to them.”

For more information about the Library History Roadshow, and to see photos and videos of library memories and treasures, visit http://thplhistoryroad­ or contact the

Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System at 813-273-3652.