- April 28, 2022
When the Lakewood Ranch Library opens, the shelves will be 100% filled with books.
That seems like a no-brainer, but Manatee County Library Services Manager Tammy Parrott said that libraries often open with a minimum capacity of 75% of books filling the shelves.
So what will make the difference when the Lakewood Ranch Library opens in October?
Parrott said it's the Friends of the Lakewood Ranch Library.
Last week, Sue Ann Miller, president of the Friends of the Lakewood Ranch Library, presented Parrott with a $100,000 check that will go toward filling the shelves. That $100,000 was matched by the Manatee Library Foundation for a $200,000 total.
And that's just a start.
Miller is confident the Friends of the Lakewood Ranch Library can raise significant funds before the library opens. She said they are awaiting word on five grant requests and they are continuing to host or participate in events to raise funds.
One of the events is Music on Main, the monthly concert series and block party that will be held 6-9 p.m. March 3 at Main Street at Lakewood Ranch. The beer and wine sales from the event will go to the Friends of the Lakewood Ranch Library.
Every dollar Friends of the Lakewood Ranch Library can raise will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $100,000, by the Manatee Library Foundation. Combined with the $100,000 donated last week, the foundation could end up donating $200,000 in all to the effort.
Don Janezic, president of the Manatee Library Foundation, said the group's 11-person board wanted to cover expenses that the county isn't covering because of insufficient funding. Janezic said the foundation, which started in 1983, allocates 4% of its fund balance each year and decided to focus its funding on the Lakewood Ranch Library this year.
Janezic said the effort actually is supporting the entire Manatee County Library Services system because resources will be shared among the branches.
He also said that when Miller came to the foundation for financial support the foundation was quick to respond.
"I've seen the way they operate," Janezic said. "Everything is researched. Everything is crisp, concise. They are remarkably efficient."
He was not surprised that Friends of the Lakewood Ranch Library was able to present $100,000 to library services.
"It shows a great deal of diligence and commitment," he said. "A lot of that has to do with leadership. This is a passion for (the board members of the Friends of the Lakewood Ranch Library)."
"I thought if anyone could do it (raise $100,000 for the library), Friends of the Lakewood Ranch Library could," Parrott said. "We are just thrilled. They are impressive and they are an inspiration. Friends of the Lakewood Ranch Library is among the strongest friends groups you will find across the United States."
Parrott said when she had looked at the original design for the 25,000-square-foot library, she knew there wasn't enough shelving being planned for it. The plan to stock those shelves with 25,000 books increased to a plan for more shelves that could hold 46,000 books. That increased the need for additional funds to purchase books.
"I know this will be our busiest branch," Parrot said. "This library is impressive and up-lifting. It represents a step forward into the 21st century. This library has been anticipated, and it is new."
Manatee County's Central Library, the biggest in the system is 51,000-square feet. While the Lakewood Ranch Library starts out about half that size at 25,000-square feet, the county is leaving the second floor as a shell at this point before deciding what to do with it. There also will be a rooftop that could hosts events.
Those decisions won't be made until down the road, but Parrott is hoping the library will expand into those floors. The library will open with 17 employees, with nine being part-time.
"We can't wait for opening day," Miller said. "Residents have been advocating for this library for more than 20 years. We have to credit this community for being so committed."
Miller said those who attend Music on Main March 3 can buy tickets for a gift basket that will include autographed books of local authors and $250 in lottery tickets.
Lyn Begraft, the assistant library service manager, said she has seen the excitement generated by the construction of the new Lakewood Ranch Library.
"The whole community has been looking to have a third space ... a place to go along with home and work that is kind of a home away from home."
Janezic said the county won't be done with its work to improve its library system even after the Lakewood Ranch Library opens.
"I don't want there to be any misconception," he said. "The Lakewood Ranch Library will be filled up, but the county still needs more library space."