Jerry Alex was walking to the library Monday morning at State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota when he saw a strange line of people standing between the old and new library buildings.
Curious, Alex walked over and realized the people were forming a chain, passing books from one person to the next, between the libraries. He decided to join.
“It’s actually probably the best thing ever,” said Alex, a freshman at SCF. “I saw the line coming from all the way across campus, and I was like, ‘I kind of really want to get involved in this.’”
The book brigade marked an unofficial opening of the new $20 million Library and Learning Center at SCF.
Meg Hawkins, director of libraries at State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota, said they decided to celebrate the opening of the doors to the new Library and Learning Center with a “Pass the Book” event after seeing other local libraries do something similar.
“It’s a way to bring in the community,” Hawkins said, as dozens of SCF students, staff and collegiate school students lined up at arms-length apart outside.
Monday, Hawkins placed some of the final books on the shelves, and cheered with the group of more than 100 people who volunteered to be part of the “Pass the Book” ceremony.
Standing next to Alex in the book chain outside was sophomore Christina Bobrek, who had signed up for the book passing.
Alex, who hopes to eventually earn a degree in bio-medical engineering, and Bobrek, who is looking to major in biology, welcomed all the new library has to offer in technology and study space. Bobrek looks forward to using the library’s new Microsoft hubs, rooms with a large touch-screen that allow for document sharing and group work.
“It’s really useful for students to jot down notes and then they can send it to themselves, so that’s pretty cool,” Bobrek said.
The facility also features a 200-seat community room, 3D printers and a sound studio.
“In the old library, we had so much space but not enough for group seating, group interaction. (The new library) is a lot more social, a lot more open,” Alex said. It’s all just impressive and I can’t wait to use it.”
A peek inside the doors of the old library building reveals mostly empty chairs and bookshelves. But where one door closes, another opens; and Monday, a sign and a line of people passing a few remaining books between them pointed the way from the old to the new.
The new Library and Learning Center is officially open to students, and the staff has been moved out of the next-door building for about a week, Hawkins said. On Feb. 22, the school will officially hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility.
The library is also open to the community. Those with a Manatee or Sarasota library card can request an SCF library card to get access to the Library and Learning Center, along with its resources.
Bringing in technology and the community is important in the new library.
“Our goal is to out of the idea of a book warehouse, and this is a point of accessibility,” Hawkins said.
But it’s also an opportunity to blend “old world” with “new world,” allowing for the use of books and online information, in a blend of what Hawkins calls “all the best” and an expansion on what libraries can provide. Library staff will work to maintain a human connection with students and community members who use the library, to be seen as yet another resource in the building.