The Hillsborough County library system has a big birthday coming up, and the public is invited to help celebrate.
Jan. 1, 2014, will mark the 100th anniversary of the county's first public library -- the West Tampa branch. In preparation for the centennial, library staffers have been traveling from branch to branch, collecting patrons' stories and memorabilia.
"We had boxes and boxes of stuff that had been kept for a hundred years, but we wanted to capture the customers' memories of the libraries," said chief librarian Margaret Rials.
Since the Library History Roadshow kicked off in 2011, staffers have scanned old photos, newspaper clippings, bookmarks and other keepsakes turned in by community members. One woman even donated the exterior sign from the Hyde Park branch, which closed in 1968.
"That was the biggest and most interesting piece of memorabilia that we got," Rials said. "My most-wanted item right now is an original copy of the dedication program from the West Tampa library."
But just as valuable to Rials are patrons' memories. At each roadshow event, patrons can record their memories via audio or video. Many stories be found on the Library History Roadshow blog.
One man recalled attending story time as a boy at the Tampa's East Seventh Avenue library; it opened in 1917 -- the year he was born. Another patron explained the origin of the quilt that hangs in the Town 'N Country branch. Even the youngest readers recalled getting their first library card.
Here's a memory from Bunny Pearce:
The Library History Roadshow's next stop will be the John F. Germany Public Library in downtown Tampa. Drop by Jan. 13 between 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to record your stories, have old photos scanned... and enjoy a piece of cake. The event will double as a 90th birthday part for Mr. Germany (yes, he's a real person), who is scheduled to attend.
As for all that digital memorabilia, it will be archived online.
"It’s going to be in our library catalog," Rials said. "Just like a book.”