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Winter Park Library: A People First Library

October 2, 2023

Tech Logic Corporation presented Winter Park Library with our People First Award in order to recognize the library’s extraordinary action for the benefit of their community. Winter Park Library’s spaces and programs reflect a commitment shared by modern libraries around the world—a commitment to serve residents as relevant, people-first community centers.

Tech Logic presented Winter Park Library with the People First Award during an onsite award ceremony and press conference at Winter Park Library's Edyth Bush Theatre on October 12, 2023. Check out the award reception!

It’s no surprise that Winter Park Library’s tagline is “Books are just the beginning.” The library’s award-winning spaces and innovative programs are, ultimately, all about the people. With surging foot traffic and circulation, and personalized programming (including the library’s current pursuit of “Family Place” certification) Winter Park Library is well on its way to becoming Florida’s only Star Library on the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service. Tech Logic is thrilled to present our People First award to Winter Park Library, in recognition of the library’s extraordinary action for the benefit of their community.

Executive Library Director Melissa Schneider said, “In a world that is increasingly divisive, where equality and access are not always present, we really strive to be the connector for people to come together and have access and meaningful conversation.”

In the early 2000s, discussions began about Winter Park Library needing updated technology infrastructure and gathering spaces. Forums with the local community emphasized the need for dedicated space for children and teens, as well as support for entrepreneurs, and better accessibility for older adults. Staff felt constrained by the lack of space and technologies to serve their community. Based on this feedback, the Winter Park Library embarked on a journey of discovery, design, and dynamic action. They worked with Sir David Adjaye—renowned architect of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.—to design an award-winning new facility that optimizes space for learning, study, creativity, community, entrepreneurship, and more.

Ultimately, the new spaces at Winter Park Library are all about the people. “Our content has been so well received since opening in the new space,” Schneider said. “Our class attendance is up by 51% since last year, and it’s up compared to where we were 5 years ago. Our foot traffic—people coming through the doors—is up 25% compared to where it was 5 years ago. We have over 13,000 people coming in the doors every month. We are really busy. We’re really happy to see the growth.”

Winter Park Library has seen class attendance increase by 51% since last year, and it's up compared to five years ago.
Winter Park Library's Dream Room lab "aims to provide the community with the cutting edge technologies necessary to obtain success while simultaneously breaking down the most ubiquitous barrier of all: Cost."

The new meeting and study spaces have been a huge asset for small businesses and self-employed individuals. In the last 9 months, over 3,000 staff hours have been spent assisting with over 4,500 meetings for over 15,000 people. “We planned some of these spaces prior to the pandemic,” Schneider said, “and I don’t think we could have anticipated the response coming out of a whole new work environment for so many people. We’ve had individuals launching small businesses out of our study or conference rooms—and utilizing our technology to develop branded materials.”  

Jody Lazar, the Director of Community Engagement, notes one example: “One gentleman started a preschool consulting business here after being a leader at a preschool for many years. He decided that he wanted to help other folks grow their preschool.”  

“We have several different examples of entrepreneurs building their businesses in our space, which is really exciting,” Schneider said. “That was one of the services or needs we recognized—small business incubator space.”

On Winter Park Library’s “Maker Day,” the library partners up with organizations to teach STEM skills related to engineering, art, science, and more. Activities include 3D printing, laser cutting, drawing, crafts, architecture design, , soap making, gardening, and more. “It’s a very organic, homegrown, and experiential day,” says Lazar. Even though the event is typically hosted the week of July 4th, attendance is a huge success. The last Maker Day brought over 1,500 people to the library space.

The Recording Studio is acoustically treated with access to industry-standard recording software, microphones, a midi-controller with 88 fully weighted keys and more.

Winter Park Library also has programs like “Step Up to Kindergarten” and “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten.” The latter is an early literacy challenge encouraging parents and caregivers to read with their children. As a proud aunt of a 4-year-old, Schneider says, “I’m really passionate about this program. It’s so important to support our parents and grandparents in helping young readers succeed, especially since early literacy is tied to lifelong success personally and professionally. It’s as simple as reading just a few books consistently every night with your kids.”

Sometimes, the inspiration to keep reading just requires a little encouragement from Pete the Cat.
Outside Winter Park Library, a mobile book bike serves books to parkgoers.

With its early literacy programming and family support, it’s fitting that Winter Park is pursuing certification as a “Family Place” library. This initiative works to further transform libraries into welcoming, developmentally appropriate early learning environments for very young children, their parents, and their caregivers. Libraries pursuing the "Family Place” certification commit to a continual investment in child development, family support, parent education, and best practices. Schneider said, “A big part of the certification involves assessing your collection and providing things that are beyond books—toys, early literacy kits, musical instruments, and multi-media materials for babies and toddlers. It also requires modifying your spaces to promote play-based learning like dress-up, cooking, and puzzles.” The certification also involves ongoing training for staff and partnership with learning professionals to provide dynamic resources for parents. Winter Park expects to complete the “Family Place” certification process in 2024, making them the first library in central Florida with certification as a “Family Place” library.  

Winter Park is pursuing certification as a “Family Place” library, working to further enhance their space into welcoming, developmentally appropriate early learning environments for very young children, their parents, and their caregivers

Winter Park also launched their “Reach for the Stars” campaign with the goal of becoming Florida’s only Star Library on the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service by 2025. To achieve this designation, the library must be rated by the Library Journal index based on per-capita service output measures. “We are confident our numbers are trending in the right direction,” Schneider said.  

When it comes to staff workflow and circulation, Winter Park has seen huge growth. Self-checkout is accomplished through Tech Logic’s all-in-one kiosks, and returns are handled by totalAMH, supporting efficient multi-item induction. “We know that books are getting back on the shelves faster. I don’t see carts sitting around like they used to at the old building waiting to be re-shelved,” says Lazar. “We not only have staff to do that, but we’ve also been able to train excellent volunteers to help.” The new layout has provided easy access to collections and expedient checkout. Roving staff members provide mobile checkout with tablets and scanners—all neatly tucked into the pockets of colorful aprons. Outside the library, a mobile book bike serves books to parkgoers.

Book returns are simple (some might even say fun!) with Tech Logic's totalAMH system.

Winter Park recently instituted a fine-free policy to encourage collection use without penalties. They also partnered with the University of Central Florida to provide a clinical social work intern to support the community. This intern helps individuals and families overcome everyday challenges. “I think this really speaks to our commitment to providing for everyone," Schneider said. “There is sometimes a misconception, especially here in Winter Park, that people are not facing food, job, or housing insecurity—and that’s just not true. We know the data coming out of the pandemic and how that has affected so many in our population.”

In the future, Schneider hopes that society will no longer need to have conversations about whether the library is still relevant or not. “Our board president talks a lot about how ‘library’ is an antiquated term,” she said, “and how people often associate the term with books and nothing more. However, he compares this to the term ‘phone’—how phones still have the same name, but they are so much more than what phones used to be. So much of our life is now on our phones—both personally and professionally–our movies, photos, stories, content. That’s what we feel a library is, now. We hope that, in the future, there will be an understanding that the term 'library' means more than just books.”  

Winter Park Library captured this message in a video— “Books are just the beginning”—showcasing glimpses of the library’s spaces and programs.

“I think, coming out of the pandemic, we have seen what a need there is to have a space to come together and connect,” Schnieder said. “Beyond the role of traditional library, I think we have become a place where people can do that.”

Congratulations to Winter Park Library on their extraordinary, inspiring, and ongoing efforts to fulfill their mission and benefit the people in their community.  

Tech Logic connects libraries with their communities through dynamic, innovative, and efficient workflow technologies—delivering unparalleled service and outstanding patron experience. Since 1997, we have worked exclusively with libraries to develop solutions that empower library patrons and staff.