A new edition
Paula A. Lewis Branch Library offers much more than a good read
BY RACHEL CUCCURULLO
Looking for a place to expand upon your technological skills and perhaps learn some new ones? The Paula A. Lewis Branch Library in Port St. Lucie is the place to go. Offering the use of state-of-the-art devices and a 3-D printer, as well as a teen gaming room, the St. Lucie County branch library on Rosser Boulevard has been an active space shared by residents of all ages since its opening in 2017.
The library has long been an important institution in communities across America. While providing the public with the usual suspects, those printed tomes, libraries across the nation have added computer access, DVDs, e-books, puzzles, laptops, tablets, 3-D printing and social activities to lure in other guests. Libraries are now a huge point of access for educational resources such as open and lower-cost textbooks, online courseware and project assistance. The library in today’s world also serves as a place to facilitate real-life connections between people in the community.
The Lewis branch is no exception to these advances in our library system, focusing on wireless printing capabilities so that guests are able to print with ease from their own devices. This is the only library in the county that has a 3-D printer that can be used by guests, for a nominal fee, with the assistance of one of the library’s tech liaisons. Library staff members have noted that the 3-D printer is an excellent way for students to learn more about geometry and engineering.
The branch also flaunts a large children’s section chock full of puzzles, games and, of course, books. There is also a teen gaming room which houses several sets of virtual reality headsets and gaming consoles connected to wide-screen, curved monitors.
“My family loves the library,” La Leche League leader Heather Reagan said. “They have a wonderful children’s section with board books for my little ones, puzzles, and interactive computer programs. I also meet parents there monthly for breastfeeding support, so it’s a great place to meet other families and build community.”
A sizable meeting room features a complete audio-visual system. Guests are encouraged to take advantage of the use of one of the many desktop stations. The branch’s Creation Station gives guests access to the full Adobe Creative Cloud suite of video and music editing tools.
St. Lucie County Library Board members began working on a special project for the Port St. Lucie community in 2013. It had been close to 20 years since the area had seen a new library branch built. Their plans were completed in October of 2017 when the doors of the sleek, newly renovated building of the Paula A. Lewis Branch Library were opened to the public.
The building started out as a city police substation. It had been sitting vacant for several years before being purchased by St. Lucie County in 2013 for $2.3 million from the City of Port St. Lucie.
“The facility was largely built using library impact fees, but we received a $500,000 grant through the State Library of Florida as well as a donation of $300,000 from The Friends of the Library of St. Lucie County,” said Susan Jacob, director of the Library Advisory Board for St. Lucie County.
The Friends of the Library of St. Lucie County Association Inc. is a non-profit organization made up of volunteers who support the county’s thriving library system. In the past, they have helped with other branches in need. When the Zora Neale Hurston branch needed to expand, they were there to lend a helping hand.
COUNTY SUPPORT NEEDED
As for this newest addition to St. Lucie County’s library system, it is a project that board members had been trying to make headway on for a long time. Before any movement could be made though, they needed the support of St. Lucie County Board of County Commissioners. This backing was crucial in order to receive continued funding for the required 10 staff members at the branch.
The Lewis branch is now the sixth library facility in St. Lucie County. This number is quite high compared to some other, larger metro areas. To say the county has a prospering library system would be an understatement.
“For every dollar invested in libraries in our community, the return is $10.18,” Jacob said. “People forget that and it’s quite a lot.”
As part of the county library system’s initiative to carry out its mission “to advance knowledge, inspire lifelong learning, and strengthen our community,” the ArtSpace project was launched, allowing local artists to showcase their submitted pieces [if approved] for a period of 3 months at the Lewis branch.
In January, the Lewis branch hosted a touring exhibition of works by the highly admired Washington Post editorial cartoonist, Herb Block. The works focused on America’s civil rights movement. The participation of the Lewis branch in such exhibits has allowed it to serve as a cultural center of sorts for the community.
PLENTY OF ACTIVITIES
Each week the branch holds various social activities and workshops that are open to the public, including a book discussion group, tax assistance and book-a-tech sessions. The book-a-tech sessions are a great, free resource for residents seeking basic introductions to certain technologies.
“Each session is 30 minutes and provides instruction on things such as setting-up and using email, social media and research work,” said Port St. Lucie resident and frequent library guest Donald Jagomine. “My father is in his 80s and has gotten help navigating a new laptop and tablet.”
The branch also hosts several story time activities for families: Just Baby & Me Storytime [age 2 and younger], Rhythm & Rhyme Toddler Storytime [ages 2 to 3], Storytime Jam [ages 3 to 5]. In the summers the branch usually schedules an exclusive story time for children on the autism spectrum or with special sensory needs.
“It’s been really great to have access to all of these resources for my family,” Jagomine said. “We love the Lewis branch and visit quite often. My kids go crazy over the great book selection they have to offer.”
With its location in the southwestern part of town and with all that the Lewis branch has to offer, it is no wonder the building is always buzzing with visitors. While the use and sale of e-books has increased significantly in the last few years, physical books are still preferred by the lot. Yet, to keep up with the times, libraries have quickly become technological hubs and their resources are utilized by many in their communities. The Paula A. Lewis Branch Library exemplifies success in the transition toward the modern world.