The $1.4 million Johann Fust Library expansion and renovation promises to provide a 21st century upgrade in technology and facility amenities once completed.
The project is running three months behind but is on target for an April 1 opening.
The upgrade project followed a 2010 community survey where islanders indicated they loved Fust Library but thy checked their books out at the Lee County Recreation Department reference room at the Boca Grande Community Center.
The two facilities have been merged by this project, which should offer the best of both worlds to islanders, said Alice Gorman, a Fust Library Board member. Gorman updated the project for the Gasparilla Gazette this week.
QUESTION: What was the hold-up on the library construction schedule?
ANSWER: Permitting held us up. We thought we had the permits because everything through our meetings had been OK'd. Then it got down to it and there were some little details, you know. What I'm hoping is it will build anticipation because it will all be so wonderful when it is done.
Alice Gorman at a glance
Occupation: Johann Fust Community Library Board member
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.
Residence: Boca Grande and Spruce Head, Maine.
Family: Two girls and a boy, husband deceased
Education: master's degree in writing in 2005
Discovered Boca Grande: I moved to Boca Grande in 1997. My mother and father were already here. I first came down with my mother and father to see a house they had already bought in 1972.
Q: In this digital day and age, is a library really necessary?
A: My answer to that is we need a community resource where people can go and talk about books and meet authors. It's like going back to a source. There will always be a place for that on Boca Grande. It makes a difference.
Q: Why did it make sense for the library to absorb the reference room?
A: When Lee County first decided they wanted a line item for a Boca Grande library they put it in the community center. That was fine while it was a very small reference room with books. But it's outgrown its space and had nowhere else to grow in the community center. Moving it to Fust is the best of a public-private partnership.
Q: Is it true Boca Grande reference room branch manager Toni Vanover's competence helped spur the merger?
A: Lee County hired an excellent librarian in Toni. Everyone who knows Toni knows she is so capable, knowledgeable and helpful. So people began going to the reference room for books. Plus Toni had the capability of getting books people wanted. So the number of books loans that went out of the Fust Library began diminishing. So here we had a situation where there is efficiency and capability in the reference room and we had the beauty and tradition in the building of the Fust Library.
Q: How did the 2010 survey help seal the deal?
A: The results came back and said: "We love the Fust Library but we get our books from the reference room. Isn't there some way to put them together?" Well, we actually had been thinking about it for some time on the board and we felt because it was not just an idea from the board, but from the community, that it made sense to try to merge these two organizations.
Q: How did Lee County respond to the idea?
A: The head of the Lee County Parks and Recreation was very much in favor of it. First of all, they desperately needed space. So to lose the reference room from the community center was not an issue. Second, the Library Division of Lee County felt that there was room to grow in Fust Library where there really wasn't in the community center. Our main interest is to serve the Boca Grande community in the best way possible so the board figured out we could remain a Foundation and oversee all of the building and grounds and activities at the library and we could turn over certain spaces to Lee County library System and Toni will oversee those and her assistant will be Mary Vickers, the longtime Fust librarian. This is a real advance for Mary. It's terrific for her.
Q: Were there any challenges in upgrading Fust facilities?
A: There were certain things we had to bring up to code. We had to redo the handicapped ramp because it was not really accessible. But the front is going to look exactly the way it does now except for the handicapped ramp.
Q: What other upgrades will be included?
A: Inside, all the ugly metal shelving will be gone. There will be the same number of books available as the reference room. This is all going to be done in cypress so it will have the look the library has always had. The office is going to be turned into a reading room with a little fireplace, table and chairs and our rare books will be in there. The children's room, which people didn't even know was there, is being turned into the office (for library personnel) and the children's library is going to be located in what was the potting shed in the back and it will have a secret garden connected to it. It will be so charming and fun for the children to go to for people to read to them.
Q: What will be included in the new media center?
A: The media center will have all of the computers - as Toni says, everything that makes noise: the computers, DVDs, CDs, audio books, and it will be absolutely up-to-date to the highest standards of IT.
Q: How is all this being paid for?
A: We have raised three-quarters of the $1.4 million estimated project cost privately. We have not been to the community yet. There has been such enthusiasm and people have been enormously generous. My hope is that when we start a public campaign that everyone in the community will contribute to their ability so that this is really a library people feel they own.
Q: The Fust Community Library Board extended your term a bit beyond the normal limits to allow you to help everyone see the renovation through. How did that make you feel?
A: I'm just thrilled to be part of this. It was a vision many of us had and it will follow our slogan: Preserve the Past and Assure the Future.