Chapter 1: Our story begins in 1955, in a tiny cottage with 1,200 donated books. The cottage is so small that the part-time volunteer who serves as the librarian must step outside when anyone else comes in. Turn the page to 1957, when a move to a larger cottage does little to solve the crowded conditions. Annual auctions raise money to buy land on which to build.
Chapter 2: 1960. Ground is broken for a 2,600 square foot library building on Bay Street. The collection grows. Turn the page to 1994, when the temporarily displaced library triumphantly returns to its home, after reconstruction has doubled its original size. Turn the page to today. Offering 62,600 books, 16,400 other items, a host of services, classes, and technology, and gallery space, the library is, once again, in need of room to grow.
In the past 10 years, the library has steadily increased its collection, services and programs to meet the needs of beach residents and visitors. At the same time, the Board of Directors has implemented a long range plan to respond to the eventual need to expand the library building. Land adjoining our existing building has been purchased, and the challenge of construction is now upon us.
Adding to our existing library building will not only allow us to house our expanding collection, it will open the door to offering a wider range of resources and activities, including public meeting space, gallery and performance space, specific areas for youth, and a computer lab. While technology plays a big role in contemporary libraries, the attractiveness of the traditional environment of quiet study and reflective learning remains an important element in our design goals. Our building must be exemplary in its environmental friendliness, and must maximize the use of natural light and minimize visual and physical barriers. It must capture the essence of life on a barrier island.
The town of Fort Myers Beach Comprehensive Plan identifies the library as the heart of the island. Our goal is to be nothing less than the center for
intellectual and cultural activity in this community.
Chapter 3: April, 2011. Reconstruction begins again! Adding 18,895 square feet to our existing building will give us a total of 34,190 square feet to house a growing collection and handle expanded services. Parking will be available under the expansion and 680 square foot courtyards are in the works. Floor plans are eveloped, based on input from taxpayer surveys and focus groups, and the combined vision of library staff, the library Board of Directors, and Building Expansion Work sessions.
Since the current facility construction in 1994, we have received regular positive and encouraging comments regarding the feeling that users and visitors enjoy in the library—its open feel and infusion of natural light. Both of these features were carried over into design for the expanded library. We want a library that makes maximum use of natural light, is environmentally friendly inside and out, avoids visual and physical barriers, and situates itself physically and socially in the Beach’s community environment.
This building project calls on us to respond to new expectations and opportunities. While technology plays a big role in today’s libraries, bits and bytes tell only part of the story and our mission. The attractiveness of the traditional library environment of quiet study and reflective learning remains undiminished.
See a model of the building, schematics and plans here.
The new library will be comprised of three basic sections, with its own unique look and set of functions. Each will be comprised of flexible interior space, with environmental green areas playing an integral part wherever possible. We have designated these areas as Commons, Library Proper, and Classic Library.
The Library Commons on the third floor of the expansion will be a transparent multifunctional space, a gathering point for the public, with facilities not only for lectures, seminars, and a computer lab, but to attract new users and redefine the role of the library in the social tapestry of the Beach community. The Library Commons will include The Friends of the Library bookstore, a café, copy center, gathering area, and community area.
The gathering area of The Library Commons will provide space for people to gather outside of the computer lab, the community room and café. Those with their own laptops can access the Internet wirelessly in the gathering area. At the café, library users will enjoy coffee and light snacks while socializing in warm, inviting, and informal atmosphere. It will be a place to wait for one’s friends and family, to take a break before or after library programs or events in the public community room. Its relaxed environment will exemplify the calm and friendly character of the Beach and its library.
The copy center will be a dedicated space where patrons may copy materials and where faxes may be sent. State-of-the-art computer workstations and a central instructor’s station for conducting classes will enable participants and patrons to learn essentials of computer hardware and software in a hands-on environment.
The Community room will consist of two spaces with multiple uses and flexible formats. The larger of the two will have audience seating to accommodate library programs, small public forums, continuing education, and lectures, conferences and training sessions. The smaller meeting room will be an open space without amplification.
The new library will be able to be kept up-to-date amid changing technologies, while honoring the enduring and unchanging qualities that are the essence of a vibrant library, such attributes as light, color, delight, learning, anticipation, and adventure.
We pride ourselves on service. We believe that by utilizing available options, such as self-checkout, we will enhance services to our users. Staff will be more directly available to the public, better able to move throughout the library, and better able to devote more time to in-depth assistance to patrons.
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