Residents filled nearly every seat at the North Fort Myers Recreation Center on Monday to give their input to county officials on what they want to see in their public library when it’s built and ready for business in three years.
Those in attendance said they wanted something flexible that can be tailored to what the people want and need at a particular time.
They also wanted things that weren’t necessarily on the survey people are being asked to take online regarding the libraries being built in North Fort Myers and in Bonita Springs.
Kevin Williams, principal architect at BSSW Architects of Fort Myers, the firm that will be handling the project, discussed the importance of residents giving their input, as well as some of the ideas that have been culled out through the early stages of the design process.
Williams spoke and answered questions for nearly an hour, and got the impression people want the new library and nearby rec enter to be the center cultural hub for the area.
“North Fort Myers doesn’t have a town hall or its own sense of place. This will give us an opportunity to bring this to North Fort Myers,” Williams said. “It’s important we bring that in concert with the other activities on site.”
While not many people have taken the survey that can be found online at www.lee-library.net/building, some ideas have been culled, such as the need for a big, open outdoor area and a library that lets in lots of natural light.
There were also other outside-thebox ideas, such as the need for a deli or a place to eat, even though one tried at the Downtown Fort Myers library failed.
Michael Land, president of the North Fort Myers Civic Association, brought up a long-standing issue of theirs, the lack of a bus stop.
“It’s a disgrace we don’t have one here. Maybe bringing in the library will be what brings it here,” Land said.
Janey Mathis asked a lot of questions, especially about the timeline for the facility. She said she has been waiting for something like this for 36 years, and it’s finally about to become reality.
“I’m happy we’re going to get some action here. We had a library that was supposed to last 10 and has lasted 26 years longer,” Mathis said. “I’m not enthusiastic about making every library different because it’s a high cost, but I think we’re on the right track.”
Also expressed was a need for more modern technology, such as laptops.
Alicia Reed said there needs to be something to draw younger people.
“I’d like to see them have more amenities for young people to bring them in. The library isn’t the most popular thing for younger people, so it would be good to have something to draw them in,”
There were also suggestions on what to do with the old building, such as make it into a cultural center or some other public facility. Right now, the plan is for the building to be demolished.
Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman said he liked what he heard and that the time to provide input is now.
“What I heard is we want a lot of flexibility with the space to tailor it to the needs of the community. I’d like to see a mix of technology and community gathering and build a cultural gathering space,” Hamman said. “This library needs to serve the needs of kids in schools but adults trying to improve themselves so they’re more marketable.”
Sheldon Kaye, director of the Lee County Library System, said it was a joy to be in a room full of people who appreciate their library system.
“We’ve always said we want to develop our service in accordance to what people want. It’s reassuring to hear people want their libraries and we pay attention to what they tell us and put it into action,” Kaye said.
Williams and his people will take these ideas and fine tune them so they can fit into the design they eventually come up with. He said Monday was a great way to start.
“I got a lot of great ideas. The patrons brought in great insight and great ideas. Some we’ve heard before, but some are interesting,” Williams said. “We want to gauge the things that are important to them. We have to make decisions, and the input they make will weigh heavily on the matrix we put together.”
The 25,000-square-foot library is set to start going up next year, with the grand opening set for some time in the summer of 2019. The cost of the facility is expected to be around $14 million.
Library users of all ages are encouraged to take the survey. The deadline to submit surveys is Friday, Sept. 9. The survey can be found online at www.leelibrary.net/building .