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St. Petersburg renames its main library in honor of former President Barack Obama

A two-year renovation project will update the building inside and out.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — On Friday, the City of St. Petersburg held a ceremony to rename its main library for former President Barack Obama.

The event touches off a two-year renovation project that will update the building inside and out.

St. Petersburg’s main library has a new sign and a new name. The President Barack Obama Main Library.

“At a later date,” said St. Petersburg Vice Mayor Kanika Tomalin, “City leaders and our community will return to this site to cut a ribbon and to celebrate a much-improved main library named for one of our nation’s greatest leaders.”

“He will always be our first Black president. And his presidency was one that we can always be proud of,” said Mayor Rick Kriseman.

The former president’s name has significance for the city, said Mayor Kriseman, embodying the hopes and aspirations of the city’s young people and the ability to rise above racism.

“He overcame every obstacle, 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,” said Kriseman.

Still, even in a city that considers itself as progressive as St. Petersburg, not everyone regards former President Obama in such glowing terms.

“Well, I can certainly see how it would be polarizing to some people, I guess,” said Jason Ray, who lives near the main library.

Ray, who describes himself as a conservative, says while he doesn’t personally have a problem with renaming the library for the 44th President, he can see why some might.

“As if they named it Donald J. Trump,” said Ray. “So, I totally understand both sides of that argument.”

While it only took a few seconds to unveil the new sign, it will take considerably longer to re-design the library itself.

First, it will shut down on April 1 so the city can remove the materials inside – a process that could take several months.

In the fall, they will begin remodeling the interior and accepting bids for the exterior re-design.

In early 2022, the plan is to start working on the exterior with hopes of having the entire project completed a year after that.

When finished, the city says the library’s $6 million face-lift will include more parking, more public spaces, and improved, modernized technology throughout the building.

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