Library staff at the new Riverview Public Library, which opened on January 13. Shown above are Karen Johnson Slaton, Tammy Cutlip, Allison Wever and Jason Steward.

By Bob Zoellner

In 1881, there were only a few public libraries in the world. As Andrew Carnegie decided to give away most of his wealth and promote the idea of free public libraries, the idea grew rapidly to now virtually every community having its own library.

Riverview has the newest one.

Opening in mid-January, the new 35,000-square-foot building at 9951 Balm Riverview Rd. opened its doors to provide curbside service to the Riverview, Gibsonton and Apollo Beach areas. The previous facility on Riverview Dr. closed, which was a much smaller library with only 8,000 square feet that served its patrons for over 40 years. That building now reverts back to Mosaic, which donated the use of the building while it was a library.

Librarians had already seen 72 customers take advantage of its services by 4 p.m. on opening day, January 13, more than any other day at the previous location during the COVID-19 protocols, according to staff.

“The new branch features a recording studio, makerspace, Early Learning Hive and an expanded children’s room,” said Chely Cantrell, the Library Brand Innovation officer for the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library system.

Cantrell has spent 15 years working in libraries, including the last six with Tampa-Hillsborough County, focusing on community engagement, public relations and learning experiences.

“Although not currently open to the public, the Riverview library is offering curbside pickup via appointment,” Cantrell said. “Customers can browse the library’s collections on HCPLC.org and place materials on hold.”

“Once the items are ready for pickup they schedule an appointment and pick up their materials via a contact-free curbside option,” added Cantrell.

One of 27 libraries in the system, each one has different protocols in place, although none allow patrons to come in and linger with their materials. Some locations have a 25 percent occupancy, which is mainly to browse and for materials pickup or to use a computer for up to an hour. Others have curbside pickup only at the moment. With the uncertainty of COVID-19 still lingering, it is impossible to predict when each location will be full-service again, Cantrell said.

The best way to see what is offered is to go onto the website at https://www.hcplc.org/locations and find the branch desired, including the Riverview Public Library.

To reserve materials at the new Riverview location for curbside pickup, call or text 955-4898 and provide your name and the last four digits of your library card. For more information and other library services, call 273-3652.