PPLC History

The Board of County Commissioners solicited nominations for the seven-member Board with the understanding that it would appoint the first three who would serve as interim officers. The officers would then review and appoint the remaining four members. The first Board of Directors was of:

Elizabeth B. Mann, Ph.D. — Tarpon Springs — Retired University Director
Lawrence Lyons — Seminole — Banker
Patricia Bauer — Dunedin — School Media Specialist
Joan Friedman — Pinellas Park — Co-owner, Air Conditioning Company
Orchid Rogers — Oldsmar, Real Estate Agent
Homer Still — St. Pete Beach — Retired State Veterans Affairs Official
Edwin I. Ford — Attorney
The Board was responsible for developing its Bylaws for approval by all member entities and to hire an Administrator. The Board conducted a national search which resulted in the selection of Bernadette Storck, a career employee of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Library System, as the Cooperative’s first administrator. She began employment in May 1990 and retired from her position in 2002. The Board again conducted a national search to fill the administrator’s position. The Board offered the position to Mary Brown who began her employment with the Cooperative in April 2002. Brown had 8 years of administrative experience with the Sarasota County Library System, and served as the Library Director for the City of St. Petersburg for ten years immediately preceding her acceptance of the Administrators position with the Cooperative. Brown continues to serve as the Cooperative’s Executive Director.

Early programs established by the Cooperative included an Answer Center, the Talking Book Library, and a courier delivery service. The Answer Center was developed by a team of library directors and initially funded through a federal grant. The program, designed to provide support services for member library reference departments, was dissolved in 2002 at the recommendation of the library directors. Access to a wide range of reference resources online at the local library level made the Answer Center obsolete.

The Talking Book Library (TBL) was established in 1992 and opened to the eligible public in May 1993. It is housed in the Cooperative offices and provides services to all eligible Pinellas County residents for whom conventional print is a barrier. The Talking Book Library began providing TBL services to Manatee and Sarasota County residents through a contractual arrangement beginning in 2008. This sub regional library works with the Regional Library in Daytona, Florida. Materials and equipment for the program and made available through the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped at no cost to the local community.

Courier delivery services distributing materials among member libraries remains an integral component of the Cooperative program. The service began in 1991 with one volunteer utilizing his own vehicle distributing materials two days a week. In the 2008/2009 fiscal year the volume of materials reached in excess of 1.5 million items with delivery to all member libraries five days a week. The volume of material resulted in the outsourcing of the delivery program to a private contractor in 2009.

The Deaf Literacy Center was incorporated into the Cooperative in FY 2000/2001. The program began as a federal grant program at the Safety Harbor Public Library in 1998 based on the need to serve an under-served Deaf community residing in the City of Safety Harbor. As the availability of the services for the Deaf became more widely known, residents from throughout Pinellas County traveled to the Safety Harbor Library. The Deaf Literacy Center (DLC) continued to expand its services providing basic literacy instruction, life skills training, and library and information services to Deaf individuals and their families. To accommodate the needs of the larger Pinellas County Deaf community three satellite locations were added to the program beginning in FY2003/2004. Classes are offered at the Palm Harbor, Pinellas Park, and St. Petersburg South Branch libraries in addition to the program still housed at the Safety Harbor Public Library.

The Born to Read program was incorporated into the Cooperative in FY 2002-2003. The program began as a federally funded program at the St. Petersburg Public Library System in FY1999/2000. Designed to reach out to at-risk families and share the love and importance of reading to their children the program expanded its borders to all of Pinellas County. Like all Cooperative programs the BTR was funded with state aid to libraries grant funds through FY 2008. In FY2009 the program received its first grant funding from the Early Learning Coalition (ELC). The program is housed at the Cooperative Office and is primarily funded through grants from local civic organizations and library support groups in addition to the ELC.

The implementation of the first countywide library automation system in 2009 was a milestone for the Cooperative, the member libraries, and the residents of Pinellas County. For the first time since its inception library users can see all of the holdings of all the member libraries in one database. In addition to greatly expanding the resources available library users, the automation system has served as a catalyst for increased levels of cooperation among member libraries.

The Administrative Office, under the direction of the Executive Director, provides support to all of the Cooperative’s programs as well as to the Cooperative member libraries. County, State and Federal funds are administered through the Cooperative office as well numerous grants from a variety of sources. The Special Projects and Grant Coordinator submit grants on behalf of the Cooperatives internal programs as well as programs requested by member libraries. The Cooperative manages contracts for TBL, the automation system, and the courier delivery program in addition to facilitating group purchases on behalf of our members. Countywide programs are coordinated by the office and are promoted through print materials and the media. Library Advocacy remains a priority at the local, state, and national level. PPLC board members, library directors, and the PPLC Executive Director actively communicate with local elected officials about matters of importance to libraries. The Executive Director acts as a liaison to member cities and county government as needed.

The Cooperative allows member libraries to share programs, resources, and talents. Library directors meet monthly and share committee work, planning work, and concerns. The ability of the Cooperative to fund core services such as the automation system, courier delivery, and electronic resources, enhances the quality of library services countywide and allows libraries to leverage their local dollars to their best possible use. The availability of county funds has assisted libraries in Pinellas County in expanding access to residents through new or expanded facilities and by adding library staff benefiting library users countywide.