The grand opening ceremony of the Fort Myers Beach Library was short and sweet, unlike the 10 years of its planning stages that involved evaluation, design, financial and usage discussions.
The outdoor event was attended by devoted community members and construction staff and featured positive words from library directors, dedication reflection from the library director, patriotic songs and a flag hoisting with assistance from the Veterans Club of America honor guard. People were then encouraged to enter the new building to witness tours, programs, presentations, entertainment and hospitality, courtesy of the Beach Library staff and the right-arm Friends of the Beach Library.
More than $600,000 in donations (to date) have graciously come in to help finance the roughly $8.4 million project that first added 18,895 square feet through an expansion and then renovated the current structure. A total of 34,190 square feet now houses a growing collection and handles expanded services.
The grand opening event of the Fort Myers Beach Library was patriotic-themed and followed by tours, programs, presentations, entertainment and hospitality inside the new structure.
Times have changed since 1955, when a tiny cottage with 1,200 donated books was called the Beach Library. Fast-forward 58 years.
"The Beach Library has adapted, modernized and transformed into a facility that invites residents and visitors in and provides them with the support that they need to reach their goals," said Dr. Leroy Hommerding, the library director.
Hommerding received an ovation when he quoted author Shelby Foote with the following statement: "A town is a group of buildings gathered around a library."
The library director then thanked the FMB Board of Library Directors, staff members, input from community via focus groups, individual comments as well as architect and construction firms involved in the fruition of the project.
"It is your spirit that makes this library come alive," he said. "Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled and sought and speculation at a stand still."
Many of the current Beach library directors were involved with most of the long-term planning. They endured the downward change in economy and the antagonizing comments that came with what some thought was an unnecessary expansion.
Katie Corning was president of the FMB Board of Library Directors during the construction period. She offered three stages of a great work.
"First it is impossible, then it's difficult, then it is done," she paraphrased. "My dream is that this (library) will be a place to explore and celebrate many facets of our culture locally and globally."
Libraries have changed throughout the years. No longer just a repository for books, the Beach Library has opened up to offer much more.
"It is an engaging, lively building that truly is a library learning and culture center that is brought to life by all who work, reflect and study here," said Hommerding. "It's wonderful to walk into the library and see people working on a project or a staff member helping a user find needed material. It is immensely gratifying to see users in this type of atmosphere where information is shared and the enthusiasm is contagious."
The library director stated Beach Library usage has been up 20 percent since the opening of the expansion in October and up over 40 percent since the opening of the renovated building in January.
"We are seeing people, who have never used the library before, check it out," he said. "There is something for everyone in this renewed space."
The building and property now holds a larger community room, more inviting living room, courtyards, kid's place, caf, place for computer instruction, public art and a permanent nook for the ever-popular "Friends" used book store, says Hommerding.
"The cooperation and support of so many in the library district has created an extraordinary center for information, life-long learning, literature and community," he said.
Current Beach Library Board
Sallie Seabury president
Karen Swanbeck vice president
Mark LaFave secretary
Miffie Greer treasurer