By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer
HOLMES BEACH – Nestled south of city hall, the Island Branch Library beckons as a gathering place for those who read, listen to CDs, appreciate art and groups that meet.
The Friends of the Island Branch Library will recognize 25 years in its current location at 5701 Marina Drive with a celebration from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 9 with music, snacks and refreshments.
The public is invited to celebrate with the Friends. A Sweet Adelines quartet and Shannon Dell with a local youth chorus will provide live music. There will be face painting, holiday cookies and a storytime for the children plus tea and finger sandwiches for the adults.
Once located in a nearby shopping center, demand for a library by residents and seasonal homeowners and visitors resulted in the formation of a Friends of the Library group in 1965. There was no library on the Island, but the county library provided bookmobile service. The county commission offered to spend $2,500 on a library if Island residents could match it, which they did, and they opened a storefront location at the Holmes Beach Shopping Center in 1970.
The Friends of the Island Branch Library led another fundraising effort when it became apparent that the storefront location was too small.
"The secret to the whole project was the Friends," Island architect H. Patterson Fletcher said. "They raised the funds and the county finally had to listen to them."
The design was considered a classic and photos of the library were published in architectural magazines and in colleges.
"It was one of my favorite buildings to work on and the first that my wife, Anita, was involved with," Fletcher said. "My office was in Marina Mall (next to it) at that time and I was very excited because I knew I could be there every day while they were building it."
Fletcher said the building was built where the old Holmes Beach airfield was once located.
"One day, a single engine plane tried to take off and lost power," he said. "It went down in the basin where Pete Reynard’s restaurant was located during lunch hour and that spelled the end of the airfield."
Since its completion, the library has built impressive patronage, Current library director Ava Ehde said that 65,566 people visited the facility from Dec.ember 1983 to November 1984 and those numbers climbed to 132,660 from December 2006 to Nov.embr 2007.
The Friends continue to serve the library, sponsoring programs such as the lecture series and travel series each winter and children’s and teen’s programs during the summer. The Friend also help fund the library’s computers for use by the public, music and talking books on CDs and cassettes, and movies and travelogues on videotapes and DVDs.
Since taking the reigns of the facility, Ehde has initiated new and exciting programs to get more people to visit the library and children to use it for studying, as well as recreation.
Come visit the Island Branch Library on Sunday, Dec. 9, to learn a little more about its history and hear plans for its future. For more information, call the library at 778-6341.