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Longboat Key Monday, May 11, 2020 2 years ago

Longboat Library lease extended until June 2024

The town is exploring the possibility of transitioning to a free library service operated by Sarasota County.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

The Longboat Key Town Commission last week unanimously approved an amendment that will extend the lease of the Longboat Library for no more than three years, beginning next year, while town leaders work with Sarasota County on bringing county library services to the island. 

The amendment is the fourth since the lease was originally signed in 2001 and would take effect June 15, 2021. 

In a letter to President Mary Baker of Longboat Library Inc., which runs the volunteer-operated library, Town Manager Tom Harmer wrote: 

"The fourth amendment extends the existing lease to June 15, 2024 with the understanding that the town and Sarasota County are working on a plan to provide public library services at the existing library building and site currently occupied by the Longboat Library, Inc. Accordingly, the fourth amendment allows for termination of the agreement by the town at any time during the extended term for any reason giving the Longboat Library at least one year's written notice of the Town's intent to terminate the lease or with 90 days advanced written notification to facilitate the implementation of public library services. The new amendment would be effective beginning June 15, 2021."

The town’s library at 555 Bay Isles Road is  a privately run,  nonprofit organization, staffed and operated by volunteers. While Longboat Key is in both Sarasota and Manatee counties, it is the only municipality in Sarasota County without a public library.

Harmer said the lease extension gives the town more time to transition the library from a non-profit organization to a free county-operated service. If the transition takes place, the current Longboat Library volunteers would transition to a “Friends Group" to support library services.

“It’s really exciting to see the leadership of the local non-profit library look to those as positive opportunities,” Harmer said.

“The most significant thing that we did and talked about was the creation of a shorter termination clause, a 90-day cause that we believe gives us adequate time to work on the transition, as we spend more time with Sarasota County advancing this concept,” Harmer said.

Harmer said Baker has signed the amendment extending the lease.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the library to close. When it is open, membership varies between $25 and $40 each year depending on how much borrowing a member does.

The Longboat Library has been at its Bay Isles Road location since 1972. A group of women founded the Longboat Library in 1957 with 1,200 books.

At a joint meeting Feb. 26 between town leaders and county commissioners,  discussion focused on would it take to add a county library on Longboat and whether those services would extend to both Sarasota County and Manatee County residents.

Sarasota County offers a digital kiosk at the Longboat Library that allows county library card holders to download digital materials without visiting a library on the mainland. However, there is not a system to get books or access to full library services on Longboat.

Currently, there are approximately 1,100 Sarasota County library card holders on Longboat Key.

At that joint meeting, Harmer said Manatee residents could still use a Sarasota library because the county already has a system in place — Manatee residents can register as reciprocal borrowers for free — and that system could be enacted in any future Longboat building.

Aside from putting a permanent building in place, leaders discussed a possible system that would function like an Amazon package service. Library holders could pick out which materials they want online and then be given a unique code to pick them up from a locker on Longboat Key.



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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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