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    Library in a park or park in a library? Yes

    Library planners want the city's new facility to offer all the choices - classics to chai tea, mathematics to Eminem - all in an oasis of relaxation.

    By MICHAEL SANDLER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 7, 2002


    LARGO -- Imagine a place with soft couches and large windows, where you can find Dostoyevsky or Dr. Dre. Where you can learn how to upholster furniture, rebuild a PC, sip chai tea and stroll beneath tall trees.

    That's what Largo officials hope to deliver by the end of 2004. With commissioners signing off on plans for a $22-million library, the city has embarked on a unique vision in Largo Central Park that they anticipate will have no rival in Pinellas County.

    Preliminary conceptual drawings released this week of the 93,000-square-foot building offer a glimpse of this ambitious project capable of rivaling any of the gargantuan bookstores.

    Beyond the grand tower entrance lie four "pavilions," each with a distinct mission.

    To the right, you will find the cafe. Take the hallway farther and you can drop off the children, where they have their own reading room with glass windows overlooking an artificial pond.

    Upstairs, teens will have a section of their own, with diner booths where they can study, a stereo system that blasts Eminem, and soundproof walls that keep the music from sifting toward the adult reading room.

    As for them, they will have plenty of choices, too. The library will have all the traditional selections, from biographies to the classics. It's just this one will offer splendid places to read them. For some, that may be the hallway with high ceilings and benches. For others, it will be the outdoor courtyard.

    "People will be able to take a book in nice weather and read outside," said Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert, who anticipates being busy until February 2003 planning details with the two architects and the builder. Construction should begin in July 2003 and be complete by the end of the following year.

    One thing he looks forward to are the large windows that will offer plenty of natural light.

    Of course, people will be able to check out the book, take a walk in the park and find that perfect, quiet spot. Library Director Barbara Murphey expects a symbiotic relationship that gives people plenty of options.

    "It has to add to the quality of the park experience," Murphey said, "and the park should add to the library experience."

    -- Michael Sandler can be reached at 445-4174 or sandler@sptimes.com.

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