The Waldo Library is set to receive a big upgrade in the near-future.
The expansion, planned by the Alachua County Library District, aims to increase opportunities for the community and surrounding neighborhoods through the purchase and renovation of the former Dollar General store on NE U.S. Highway 301.
Renovations on the building are set to begin in the upcoming fall after the completion of the remodeling of the Tower Road Library Branch. District officials say the move-in date will be sometime next year.
The current branch is housed in a tiny blue building nestled off Cole Street.
The library serves a community of about 1,000 people, and staff at the library are on a first-name basis with many of them.
“We know people by their name and they know us,” said Kerry Dowd, Waldo Library branch manager. “We get to know materials they like, and then as staff we can make suggestions.”
Dowd said her job has shown her how much a place like Waldo Library can benefit the community.
“Our mission at the library district is building a better community by creating opportunities to participate, connect and discover,” Dowd said. “I think that the library can definitely be a part of that for this community.”
Upon completion, the new Waldo Library will be five times larger than the existing branch.
“Waldo hasn’t had an upgrade or an expansion since it opened more than 20 years ago,” said Nickie Kortus, marketing and public relations specialist for the Alachua County Library District. “We can’t really expand services or continue to meet the needs of the community in that same space.”
City officials believe the upgrade will greatly increase the role of the library in the community.
“The whole function of the library is going to change, and for the better,” said Kim Worley, Waldo city manager. “It’s going to give everybody the space that they need.”
The expansion will bring in features ranging from meeting, study and reading room spaces, extra computers and areas for both teens and children. The new building will also increase the library’s book collection and allow the addition of a Makerspace.
The concept of a Makerspace is a nationwide movement that typically has a focus on a S.T.E.A.M. field (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). The Waldo Library’s Makerspace will be oriented toward artistic expression.
Dowd said the upgrade will cement the library’s role in the city.
“Libraries have kind of [transformed] into community centers in a lot of ways,” she said. “I think that in a small community like this that doesn’t have quite the opportunities that some of the larger communities have, we’ll be filling that niche for them.”