An Historical Perspective of
East Lake Community Library
The East Lake Community Library is the result of a community initiative that began in 1989. In 1990, residents organized a volunteer-driven book drive and opened in a storefront on May 1, 1993. By 1996, the library had moved to a new shopping center but eventually had to vacate. As a result, the collection was placed in storage, and legislative leaders Jack Latvala and Sandy Safely worked to create a plan for a permanent library.
Finally, in April, 1997, Pinellas County approved the purchase of nine acres of land; funds from a state construction grant, matching funds from the county, private donations, and additional dollars from the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative made the possibility of a library building a reality.
ELCL opened its doors on November 1, 1999 and, despite its small size (4,500 square feet), it became an important element of the East Lake community. An expansion study in 2010 resulted in the funding of a small addition that included a Community Room and several staff offices, adding 1,900 square feet to the existing building.
In 2013, ELCL became an independent library with its own taxing district, thereby providing a new revenue stream for operational expenses and enhancements to the building. This also resulted in an increase in hours, staffing, programs, services, and collections. The library is one of four entities governed by the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency (PHCSA).
In 2016, the library received a $1,000,000 state budget appropriation to expand the library by another 2,500 square feet. Soaring construction costs were offset by fundraising efforts and the generosity of community donors. Groundbreaking took place on November 24th, 2017, and despite several delays and setbacks, the official Grand Reopening took place on January 20th, 2019. A much-needed front lot was added in June 2019 with approval of BP Settlement funds from Pinellas County; this helped to alleviate parking issues and assist Cypress Woods Elementary School families.
In 2019, a new four-year Strategic Plan was unveiled to meet the needs of the library community. At the same time, the staff and Board members advocated for a Phase II Expansion to be included in the Penny for Pinellas project list.
The COVID pandemic of 2022 - 2022 transformed how libraries react to adversity and stay connected with their communities – ELCL found innovative ways to continue providing services, programming, recreational and educational materials, and keeping patrons informed and safe. Some new services and collections included:
“Tools for School” kits for K – 12th Grade
Gizmos and Gadgets Collection (including new Wi-Fi HotSpots) increased patrons’ access to technology as well as offer recreational & household devices.
New online databases and e-resources
A Passport Acceptance Facility in our library
An outdoor Food Pantry for those in need
Easier Access to Physical Materials:
*A 24/7 HoldIt Locker system for library materials just outside our doors.
*Collections Connections service for homebound residents and those in Assisted Living Facilities.
In early 2023, the library unveiled a new strategic plan for 2023 – 2026 subtitled: “Roadmap to the Future” with goals in each of five focus areas: Trust, Learning, Cooperation, Building, and Inclusion. We are also focused on developing a Master Plan for a Phase II expansion (2nd floor) in 2027 to provide the much-needed space for programs, services, casual seating, meeting rooms, and staff.