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Reimagined ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Sanibel library

By Staff | Apr 9, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED Nicole Decker-McHale, Linda Uhler, Howard Wheeler, Linda Kramer, Dan Moeder, Tom Krekel and Sandy Zahorchak at the March 21 ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The Sanibel Public Library celebrated the completion of the “Your Library Reimagined” renovation project on March 21 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Planning for the renovation project started over three years ago, when the library board and staff analyzed obsolete infrastructure. The renovation overhauled the library’s 25-year-old HVAC, plumbing, fire suppression and electrical systems. Design work was completed by HBM Architects of Cleveland, with Chris-Tel Construction of Fort Myers assuming responsibility for construction management.

The library’s board of commissioners and Chris-Tel President Howard Wheeler cut the ribbon as a symbol of a grand reopening of the reimagined library. Each commissioner spoke to the crowd.

Vice President Tom Krekel traced the history of the facility, and said there have been no significant infrastructure improvements since its construction in 1992, so “it was about time” to update the HVAC, fire suppression, electrical and data cable.

“Since we were doing all that, we decided to do visual enhancements,” he said.

PHOTO PROVIDED Bob Kern, Holly Milbrandt, Dan Moeder, Linda Uhler and Betty Shewfelt.

The enhancements, which did not add square footage to the building, included the addition of 41 new floor-to-ceiling hurricane-proof windows.

Commissioner Melanie Congress talked about HBM, which specializes in library design.

“The Reimagined project result is a library that mixes the latest in high tech library design trends with the laid back Sanibel aesthetic,” she said.

Congress talked about how the new space brings the outdoors in, by reconfiguring the space, and adding floor-to ceiling windows to maximize natural light and stunning views. HBM incorporated colors and textures that are reflective of the island environment.

“I urge you to notice these things and as you take a closer look, try to envision the shoreline as it reaches the sands and shells,” she said. “Take a seat and look out at the views from one of our new living rooms. Grab a book or device and hook up to the latest ultra-fast WiFi, or use one of the new Study Rooms. Enjoy your newly-reimagined library.”

PHOTO PROVIDED The new Sanibel Public Library design incorporates colors and textures reflective of the island environment, like chair fabric that looks like jingle shells.

“The good news is we had the reserves, the foundation helped us, and so did you with your donations, which was important, so we didn’t have to do a fundraiser,” Treasurer Dan Moeder said. “The project was $5.9 million, we are on budget.”

He noted that the library must again build up reserves.

“So we added a little bit to the millage rate, just to make sure the next generation of commissioners in 15 or 20 years, will have the money to do the next iteration,” Moeder said. “We hope you enjoy it, it’s been paid for.”

During the renovation, crews have tested and retested more than 5.166 miles of data cable. More than two miles of ductwork has been installed. The project has also “reimagined” the layout of the space to better serve community needs.

The improvements include two new study rooms; two computer labs with fast internet; a “Think Tank” MakerSpace, and an enhanced Teen Space. There is a new Archives Room with digitization capabilities for easier scanning of photos. Most of the updates are behind the scenes, with installation of more efficient infrastructure which will lower operating costs.

PHOTO PROVIDED Nicole McHale and Ozzy Flores.

Over two miles of ductwork was installed, 1.2 miles (linear feet) of shelving assembled, with 10,000 pieces of metal shelf pieces. More than 70,000 items – mostly books – were relocated several times.

Commissioner Sandy Zahorchak noted how, during planning, the board was committed to keeping the library open during renovation. Chris-Tel has a lot of experience with this type of “phased” construction. Since the library is a vital community resource, closures were kept to a minimum, and the library was only closed for a few days at a time, less than 25 days total during the project.

In 2017, the $250,000 grant from the Sanibel Public Library Foundation for Your Library Reimagined supported the renovation and, in particular, technology infrastructure upgrade including meeting rooms, digitization, study rooms, WiFi, gaming, digital signage, public catalog search. Foundation funds also went toward the expanded reading porch, youth collections and furniture, plus the Think Tank.

The foundation is governed by a board of directors, which includes Ken Nirenberg, Linda Uhler, Margaret Mohundro, Linda Estep and Jan Egeland. Uhler and Mohundro serve on the board through their positions with the Sanibel Public Library District.

Another major achievement in 2018 was the library’s designation as a Five Star Library, one of 257 Star Libraries in the nation and one of only three in Florida. Library Journal ranks libraries based on overall circulation, eBooks, library visits, program attendance, and public internet computer use.

For more information, call 239-472-2483 or visit online at www.sanlib.org.

The Sanibel Public Library is at 770 Dunlop Road.