The 4,250 square foot expansion of the Braden River Library includes a "Makerspace" along with meeting areas, study rooms and more.
When Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh was first elected into office in 2012, one of the first things she heard from the community was that an expansion was needed at the Braden River Library.
Construction began in December 2020 on a 4,250 square foot expansion project that included more rooms and meeting space. Baugh was on hand Nov. 17 when the ribbon was cut to officially open the new addition. The library, at 4915 53rd Ave. E., is the busiest library in the Manatee County Library system and the closest library to the Lakewood Ranch area until the new Lakewood Ranch library is built.
“(The Braden River Library staff members) have done a tremendous job in focusing and helping the community with the services they need for this library,” Baugh said. “A library is not just a room to go into where books are. It's almost like a community center.”
The highlight of the expansion is the “Makerspace” that is known as Studio 70. It features 3D printers that cut “sculptures” out of plastic, sewing machines, a button maker and a machine that cuts vinyl. Molly Saunders, the library’s teen librarian who will oversee Studio 70, said that there is also technology for robotics and STEM programming.
Studio 70 has drop-in hours three times a week for different age groups. Saunders said the room will have open hours to allow people to use the machinery and learn about the new technology.
“I’d like our motto to be a creative, technology community,” Saunders said. “This is about people getting to come together and learn new things in the library.”
Braden River Library Branch Manager Cathy Laird said different projects will be offered each week.
“We're doing a sewing project to start with,” she said. “So if someone was interested in using a sewing machine for their own project or wanting to learn how to use the machine, we could teach them. And I mean, that's just one example of many, many things that we're doing in that space."
A 30-seat meeting room equipped with a large-screen display and white boards and an attached warming kitchen was added adjacent to the Maker Room. There are four study rooms and a two‐person staff office to provide guidance on how to use the Studio 70. There are also two new ADA-compliant restrooms.
Laird said the library previously had only one study room and that arguments would almost break out over its use. Within minutes of the new section’s opening, two of the four new rooms were in use.
The new conference room gives the library the ability to host multiple groups and functions at the same time. Laird said book sales would be held in the conference rooms, allowing other areas of the library to stay open.
Other components of the project included a renovated air conditioning system, a reconstructed parking lot and landscaping with mature palm trees.
“This was all so needed,” Laird said. “We have new lighting, new carpet, new paint, new air conditioning — all of this is desperately needed. So we're just thrilled.”
The Friends of the Braden River Library donated $60,000 to replace the carpet in the facility and create a seamless tie-in to the expansion. Friends of Braden River Library President Judy Mullen, who along with Baugh cut the ribbon to open the addition, said the end result of the project came from a lot of work and book sales.
“It makes me so happy,” Mullen said. “To see this after all of that is just heartwarming.”
Mullen said the reaction to the renovations from members of the community have been overwhelmingly positive.
“People feel they belong here,” she said. “This is their library. They have ownership of this library. I heard people talking about going to different public libraries and we're all different. But people see this as their library, their home place they can go and be safe, go for knowledge and go for fun."
Baugh said the project came in under budget at a cost of just over $1.9 million.
“It's (worth) so much more than $1.9 million,” Baugh said. “It's something we needed here.”
Baugh said the expansion at Braden River Library is a sign of things to come. Construction on the new library in Lakewood Ranch is expected to break ground in December..
“It goes to show we do have the need for a library farther out east,” she said. “Then we'll have a library on the island, we'll have the central library in downtown Bradenton, we’ll have this one and then one in Lakewood Ranch. We’ll be covered extremely well and I’m excited. I can’t wait for it to happen.”
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