City unveils new name for main library in honor of President Barack Obama

City officials unveiled the President Barack Obama Main Library sign on Feb. 26.

RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – The City of St. Petersburg kicked off Black History Month with the raising of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum flag above City Hall and culminated the celebration with the unveiling of the President Barack Obama Main Library sign.

Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin explained how the Feb. 26 unveiling came to be. In 2017, she said, Mayor Rick Kriseman assembled a diverse group of community leaders to receive feedback on renaming the main library, located at 3745 9th Ave N. They discussed ideas on enhancements of the library’s programming to include an emphasis on presidential history, civics and the contributions of President Barack and Mrs. Michelle Obama.

Photos courtesy of City of St. Pete

“We are a city that honors and appreciates our past; the pioneers, the visionaries, the history makers and the heroes. Their names can be found on buildings and in parks throughout our city.”

Mayor Kriseman said when young people see the sign or enter the library, he wants them to be inspired and know what’s possible in this city and country.

“And as we know, Barack Obama had much going against him. He overcame every obstacle,” said Kriseman. “Every person who hated him simply because of the color of his skin; people who questioned his place of birth and his very right to run for the highest office in the land. And he overcame it all and he did so with grace and class.”

The name change was approved three years ago by the city council. The library will undergo a $6 million renovation, paid for by the Penny for Pinellas sales tax revenue.

City Architect Raul Quintana said the goal of the project is to enhance technology, upgrade code requirements, upgrade system maintenance and to create a space-oriented to civic engagement in honor of President Obama’s legacy.

Enhancements include:

  • Parking expansion
  • Outdoor programming spaces
  • Interior remodeling
  • New energy-efficient air handlers
  • Improved sightlines within the library
  • Enhanced flexibility for better utilization of the interior spaces
  • Opportunities for growth in the collections
  • Enhanced lighting with LED energy-efficient lights
  • More areas for collaborative and independent work
  • More opportunities for outdoor programming spaces
  • More integrated technology
  • Greater opportunities for the civic engagement

The library will close on April 1 to remove the collections. In the fall, demolition work will begin on the interior, with major construction starting at the beginning of 2022. Quintana said once construction starts, the project should take about a year to complete.

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