Sunday, January 26, 2014

Celebrating the C. Blythe Andrews, Jr. Public Library Feb. 22

C. Blythe Andrews, Jr. Public Library

C. Blythe Andrews, Jr. Public Library 
(formerly the College Hill Branch Library)
2607 E. Dr. MLK, Jr. Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33610

Library History Roadshow
February 22, 2014
1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Community Room

The Library History Roadshow is coming to the C. Blythe Andrews, Jr. Public Library! This special event will also commemorate the Belmont Heights Little League, featuring former Negro League Baseball players, Walter "Dirk" Gibbons and Clifford "Quack" Brown who will discuss their experiences in a unique panel discussion at 2:00 pm.

Throughout the event, the Roadshow crew will be gathering, digitizing and recording library history and memories!  If you haven't checked it out already, here is a sample of what has been collected already for the C. Blythe Andrews, Jr. Public Library History Collection. We're looking forward to adding more!

History of the Library

East Gate Branch, ca. 1980
The C. Blythe Andrews, Jr. Public Library is the result of an evolution of library services in East Tampa neighborhoods.  On November 5th, 1978, Director of Libraries, Leo Meirose replaced bookmobile service at the East Gate Shopping Center by opening the East Gate Branch Library at 2311 E. Hillsborough Avenue. It was strategically positioned near the corner of N. 22nd Street in a highly visible, commercial zone to better serve the East Tampa/College Hill neighborhoods. After 8 years at this location, the lease was not renewed due to a change in landlords who preferred a retail business in that location. The branch closed on December 31, 1985. 

With the need for a local public library in East Tampa, the Friends of the College Hill Library formed on October 6, 1987 to spearhead the initiative for the construction of a permanent library for the 1,410 families residing in the neighborhood.  By June 1988, County Commissioners approved, "in concept," a library building in College Hill. 

In the interim, under the guidance of the newly appointed Director of Libraries, John M. Adams, the library reemerged as the 'Eastlake Branch Library.' It was positioned further east at 5701 E. Hillsborough Avenue and 56th Ave. on the lower level of the Eastlake Square Mall in April 1988. While being located in the mall increased visibility, this location was unfortunately not convenient for the majority of East Tampa residents. 

College Hill Branch, 1989
After two years of the Friends working for a new library in their neighborhood, College Hill celebrated the opening of their first library on the corner of 26th and Buffalo Avenue (now East Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.) on July 13th, 1989 in a temporary 800 sq. ft., double-wide trailer. It was a great success for the Friends of the College Hill Library, but they didn't stop there. By August 1991, plans for a College Hill Library construction project were unveiled.

After encountering some issues surrounding land acquisition and a backlog of pending county capital projects the project was delayed. It wasn't until May 14, 1993 that the temporary library closed and June 24, 1993 marked the kick-off of the library's construction.

Current Library Building Highlights

The current library building's dedication was celebrated on February 27, 1994, with a Proclamation presented by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners and over 400 visitors in attendance.  

Just a few years later, in March 2000, the College Hill Branch Library was chosen as one of 30 locations nationally to host "B.J." from the Tom Joyner show to promote the 2000 Census activities. 
Unveiling the portrait of
Matthew Gregory, 2006

February 18, 2006 was marked with a special ceremony held to rename the library's meeting room in honor of Matthew Gregory (1903-1982), former president of the Tampa Branch of the NAACP and former president of the Tampa Branch of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

In 2007, the library closed from July 15-August 31 for renovations.  

On February 11, 2011, the College Hill Branch Library was officially renamed the C. Blythe Andrews, Jr. Public Library, in honor of the publisher of the Florida Sentinel Bulletin. Watch the Hillsborough County's official video of the ceremony

As of January 2014, there are plans for the library's expansion that are expected to come to fruition over the next few years. 

Do you have memories, photos or memorabilia related to the C. Blythe Andrews, Jr. Public Library, or the East Gate, or College Hill Branch? 

The Library History Roadshow team will be onsite at the library to digitize your library memories for our archive from 1:00-4:00 p.m. on February 22nd. Stop by to record a video or oral memory, or bring in photos or memorabilia and we will be happy to scan and return them to you while you wait.

Join us as we gather the library's history!