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Alachua County's Headquarters Library Celebrates 25 Years

Alachua County celebrated on Monday the 25th anniversary of its public library system’s Headquarters Library opening.

Residents converged on the library for speakers, food and the unveiling of items from a time capsule that has been buried since the 1991 opening.

“I love to read. I love to speak to people. I love to be around,” said attendee Faye Williams, a community organizer who visits the library frequently. “I meet so many friends at the library.”

Shaney Livingston, director of the Alachua County Library District, noted how the library has remained strong despite technological advancements that have caused a shift away from paper books.

People checked out almost 3.8 million items from the library in 2015 — a total that Livingston estimated is an increase over the past few years.

“Even though we are shifting toward e-books, not all books are available in electronic format,” she said.

The library’s business model has changed to keep up with advancing technology, Livingston said, but the library has always made the community a priority.

“Over the past 25 years, we have certainly evolved as a district, and we’re community-focused," she said. "So the mission of the library is to really stay in touch with the community and see what things are needed."

Since opening in 1991, the Headquarters Library, in downtown Gainesville, has added a quiet reading room, a teen section and an area with pillows for children to read on. Also, since 2005, it has installed Wi-Fi, a large-screen TV and more than 75 new public computers.

“There are still many individuals in the community who may not have Internet,” Livingston said. “If they bring their personal devices to the library, then they are able to use the Internet here.”

Another big change has been an increase in the number of offered programs, like the one that teaches adults how to use computers, Livingston said. In 1991, it offered slightly more than 1,000 programs for children and 71 for adults. Today, it offers more than 5,000 and 2,800, respectively.

“The library is truly more than just books,” she said.

Ann Williams was the library director when county residents celebrated the system’s grand opening celebration on Feb. 2, 1991. That day, staff members buried a time capsule filled with memorabilia, such as newspapers, photos and books.

Those items were revealed when the capsule was opened at Monday's celebration, along with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure, a Bart Simpson doll, a box of Kodak film, a New Kids on the Block cassette tape and other items.

“It's fun to go back and look at it and then compare it to where the library system is today,” Ann Williams said.

She said the library is a valuable place for the Alachua County community.

“The citizens gave themselves a gift, I think, when they decided they really wanted a vital and updated public library system,” she said. “And they have done that, and this is a tribute to that.”

Faye Williams said that while this is an important milestone, she is looking forward to the future.

“This was a good one," she said. "But I’m hoping I’ll be around another 25 years to celebrate again.”

I am a journalism and sustainability studies student at the University of Florida.