St. Pete Beach Public Library- A Power of Libraries Story

April 8th, 2019

Caitlin Thomas

Associate Marketing Writer

St. Pete Beach, Florida is home to the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum. This Museum has historical artifacts that date back to before St. Pete Beach was an established city.

The museum is located near the Gulf of Mexico which leaves the materials vulnerable to the threat of hurricanes and other natural consequences. Then in 2017, Hurricane Irma damaged artifacts at the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum. The community and those close to the museum were devastated.

Inspired by a conference session on digitizing local history the St. Pete Beach Public Library and University of South Florida (USF) Honors College partnered together to help digitize and preserve the museum’s collection. Betcinda Kettells, a librarian for the St. Pete Public Library and Catherine Wilkins, Professor for the Honors College at USF worked together and created a course titled “How to Make History.” Students were then active participants in the digitizing process. The library provided the platform for these materials to be uploaded and cataloged online.
“Not only did it teach me the skills that I needed to succeed, but it showed a path to use those skills in the real world,” said Logan Suits, a student who participated in the How to Make History Class.

In just two semesters, students have digitized 14 oral histories and over 150 artifacts for the museum. The collection is accessible online through the Pinellas County Memory Project, state, and national archives, including the Library of Congress.

St. Pete Beach Public Library has been given the Power of Libraries Award for their ability to asses a need in their community and then build connections in order to accomplish a shared goal. They are passionate about their work and their influence in the community.

“Libraries can be powerful forces of connection,” said Catherine. “They can bring together people of all ages and all backgrounds to contribute to projects of shared interest and value such as preserving the history of the community.”