Largo Public Library

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Largo Public Library
Largo Library 2005.jpg
Location120 Central Park Drive
Largo, Florida
Other information
DirectorCasey McPhee

The Largo Public Library is one of the most widely used public libraries in Pinellas County, Florida, United States. It is centrally located in Largo and serves a community of over 75,000 residents.[1]


Beginnings of Largo, Florida[edit]

The city of Largo began as a grouping of loosely gathered communities of farmland around a large lake in the 1880s in the middle of what is today's Pinellas County. Due to railroad expansion and a growing community of residents, Largo became an incorporated town in 1905.[2]

Origins of the library[edit]

In 1914, the Woman's Club of Largo began to create a small library for the community of 350 residents.This original Library Committee consisted of Mrs. D.F. Judkins, Mrs. W.F. Belcher, Mrs. J.T. Jackson, Mrs. W.M. Ulmer, and Mrs. Ann McMullen.[3] Efforts to begin the library started at the large Camphor Tree located at the center of downtown where residents left donations. Serving as a "Christmas Giving Tree", residents left books, magazines, wood and other furnishings to help establish the first library of Largo.[4] These donations were placed in the first library facility located in a downstairs room of the original, wood frame Town Hall building with a total of 560 books which officially opened to the community on April 7, 1916.[5] Marie Allen, was paid $2 weekly to serve as Largo's first librarian. Jennie Danforth Judkins, a strong Largo Library advocate, served as the library's second librarian. Such was her dedication to the library that a local legend developed that Mrs. Judkins read every book that was added to the library's collection before it was placed on the shelf.[6]

Due to the bustling population growth of the 1950s, Largo determined the need for a new library facility and town hall and began the project in 1960. December 15, 1961 the groundbreaking took place for the $36,000 new library and Ms. Helene Tilly served as the head librarian upon opening of the facility. By 1968, the current facility on West Bay Drive expanded and contained around 14,000 books. However, the city thereafter determined the need for a new, larger facility and in 1974 local businessman John Jenkins donated five acres of land for the new library. On May 15, 1977 the new $1 million library opened under the direction of Barbara Murphey with 30,000 books present. In 1989 the facility expanded in size and totaled 250,000 volumes, serving an average of 1,500 visitors daily.[7]

The modern library[edit]

In the middle of the 1990s concerns arose on how to deal with the issue of an awkward parking lot entrance, but quickly morphed into the suggestion of a new library facility. After collecting funding from sales-tax through the "Penny for Pinellas" tax initiative,[8] the new facility opened on July 31, 2005. Also to help clearly define the overall goal of the institution within the community the official name of the facility was changed to Largo Public Library. The 90,300 square foot library opened under the direction of Casey McPhee and more than doubled the size of the previous facility. Within the first year of opening the library hired 72 staff, had 200 volunteers, welcomed more than 558,000 visitors, circulated 683,000 items, had 28,000 workshop attendees, and answered 85,000 reference questions.[9]

Largo Public Library has a long history of "firsts" in technology; it was the first library in Pinellas County to use barcode (1994)[10] and then Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to check in/out patron materials. When the current library opened in 2005, patrons were able use RFID technology at four self check out stations located on the first floor. This option is crucial to serving the huge influx of visitors that the library continues to assist each year. Starting in January 2008, library patrons had the added convenience of a full service Drive-Through window for returning materials, picking up hold requests and other library related transactions. The Drive-Through enables the library to serve a diverse group including the elderly, parents of young children and the mobility challenged.[11] In 2013 the library upgraded its RFID system to comply with current standards and also added an Automatic Materials Handler (AMH), which checks in and sorts materials.[12] These additions have enabled Largo Public Library staff to re-focus on customer service and programming for their community, despite budget cuts that reduced staffing levels during the recession.[13] This shift in focus was rewarded in 2018 when Largo Public Library was named The Florida Library Association Library of the Year. [14]

Collection and services[edit]

The Largo Public Library offers a diverse collection of materials available for checkout including DVDs, CDs, books, audiobooks, e-books, and videos. Through collaboration with the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative, the library offers a variety of digital content for check out from an e-reader or computer device through OverDrive's Libby platform.

The physical library has computers for use, as well as study rooms, reference services, Children's Wing and the Teen Room. An ideaLAB with a 3D printer has been added outside the Teen Room as a place to develop creative ideas and explore new technology.[15] The ideaLAB has not only a 3D printer, but also iPads, MacBook Pros, LEGO Mindstorms EV3, a variety of MacBook software, and iPad Apps. All of these services are free to use at the Largo Public Library.[16] They also host gaming, entertainment, literary events and programs for adults, teens and children.

Specialized collections and resource centers are also available for patron use in the form of the English Language Learning Center, e-Government resources and Genealogy collection. The library offers services beyond the physical library through the library's eBranch link. This link is the gateway to a wide variety of e-content including books, music, magazines, streaming video and databases.[17]

Largo Public Library is designated as the center for genealogical research for the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative and partners with the Pinellas Genealogy Society to provide a permanent home for maps, magazines, journals, CD-ROMs, microfiche, microfilm, US Census records, numerous Pinellas County cemetery records and obituaries and over 10,000 genealogy related books. In addition patrons have access through the library catalog to many genealogical research databases. Members of PGS also provide one-on-one instruction, research help and a variety of classes and seminars to assist patrons with their genealogical research.[18]

The library also plans to acquire a bookmobile to help reach under-served communities in the area, such as assisted living facilities and unincorporated areas without a traditional library. This mobile library will be designed to provide books and computer access to those who may not otherwise have access to these resources.[19]


  1. ^ “City of Largo, Florida”, n.d., accessed April 19, 2013
  2. ^ “History of the Library”, 2012, accessed April 19, 2013
  3. ^ "History of the Library",access-date=2016-11-24}}
  4. ^ “History of the Library”, 2012, accessed April 19, 2013
  5. ^ Murphey, "Largo Library", 1990
  6. ^ "History of the library", access-date=2016-11-24}}
  7. ^ “History of the Library”, 2012, accessed April 19, 2013
  8. ^ "Penny for Pinellas Largo, Belleair, Belleair Bluffs & vicinity" (PDF). Pinellas County. 2016. Retrieved Nov 23, 2016.
  9. ^ “History of the Library”, 2012, accessed April 19, 2013
  10. ^ "St. Petersburg Times", May 31, 1994, accessed April 17, 2015
  11. ^ "St. Petersburg Times", November 23, 2008, accessed April 17, 2015
  12. ^ "St. Petersburg Times", February 13, 2013, accessed April 17, 2015
  13. ^ "St. Petersburg Times", July 10, 2007, accessed April 17, 2015
  14. ^ "Tampa Bay Times", May 3, 2018, accessed June 14, 2018
  15. ^ "ideaLAB", n.d., accessed March 4, 2015
  16. ^ "Largo Public Library ideaLAB Equipment", access-date=August 30, 2016
  17. ^ "ebranch", n.d., accessed March 4, 2015
  18. ^ "Genealogy", n.d., accessed April 17, 2015
  19. ^ Castillo, Piper (27 August 2015). "Largo Public Library plans bookmobile as outreach to underserved neighborhoods". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 28 October 2015.

External links[edit]