New Port Richey library is top shelf, award shows

The Florida Library Association names the popular public library its 2005-06 Library of the Year.

Published April 21, 2006

NEW PORT RICHEY - It has computer classes, online book clubs and a books-by-mail program for homebound residents. It even had films and a fiddler on hand for the Shakespeare by the River festival in February.

The New Port Richey public library goes well beyond the book stacks. That's why the Florida Library Association named the popular hub its 2005-06 Library of the Year.

Library director Susan Dillinger "does a great job," said Sol Hirsch, president-elect of the Florida Library Association. "The Friends (of the New Port Richey Library) do an outstanding job. Their efforts over the years to create an outstanding municipal public library make this award well deserved."

Dillinger will accept the award today at the association's annual conference in Buena Vista. The association has long recognized libraries for their exhibits, membership drives and other initiatives, but this is the first year an overall Library of the Year was named.

"I was delighted, to say the least," Dillinger said. "It's a great honor for the library."

The red brick library next to City Hall is a major draw to New Port Richey: It boasts 22,610 card members even though the city has roughly 17,000 residents (folks outside the city are allowed to have cards). The cards are free for everyone.

Last year the library logged more than 257,000 visits from patrons who checked out books, used the computers or participated in other activities, Dillinger said.

"When people come to a community, they look for certain things, like the arts, cultural and educational opportunities, the quality of life," Dillinger said. "Our library tries to meet those needs."

Hirsch said it is particularly impressive for a smaller city library to provide so many services.

"The municipal libraries are often smaller and don't have all of the resources of the larger library systems," said Hirsch, who oversees the Alachua County Library District. "New Port Richey shows that municipal libraries can have an important place and provide important services to our community."

Bridget Hall Grumet covers New Port Richey. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is bgrumet@sptimes.com