Final installation of computers, technology, and furniture is currently underway in the east section of the renovated library. Photo courtesy Sanibel Public Library
Final installation of computers, technology, and furniture is currently underway in the east section of the renovated library. Photo courtesy Sanibel Public Library

The Sanibel Public Library’s $5.7 million “Your Library Reimagined” renovation project, which kicked off 19 months ago, is just about finished. Within days, the east entry will re-open and within a week or two, the underneath parking area will also be re-opened for public usage.

I can assure you we are very close to the end,” said Margaret Mohundro, executive director. “We are now installing the final computers, technology and furniture…And, today, the various trades people started to clear out the materials and equipment they’ve been storing in the parking garage.”

Per capita, the Sanibel Library is the busiest public library in the state of Florida based on usage, with more than 12,000 individuals as card-carrying patrons. So, keeping the library open during the phased renovation was key.

Phased construction projects do take a little longer than new construction,” admits Mohundro, noting that the library closed for three 5-6 days periods over the past year and a half to accommodate the project and the facility’s 80,000 holdings. “Our board was very committed to our staying operational through the project.”

In a letter to the Santiva Chronicle, resident Beatrice Fulmer questioned why it was taking so long.

My friends and I play cards and we were talking about it and how long it’s taken and just how much it’s costing,” she said.

Originally slated for completion by the end of fall 2018, the project is running about six weeks longer than expected.

We ran into a structural issue early in summer of 2018 that hadn’t been shown in the original construction documents from 25 years ago when the building was built,” said Mohundro, referring to the reclamation of a section of the library that hadn’t been open to the public.

Things had to be redone. The engineers designed a differing way of shoring it up and it moved along,” she said. “Considering what we had to do with the structural changes, we feel pretty good that it just took that amount of time.”

Overall, she says the public has been very supportive of the renovations and has helped keep the staff energized through the project. Regarding the cost of the project, she says it remains under budget, but can’t say just how much under until the final accounting is done.

The delay hasn’t added to the cost,” she says. “The board committed gifts, grants and library reserves that had been building for 20 years for funding. There hasn’t been an increase in taxes.”

Fulmer was delighted to hear that the project isn’t costing residents more money every day as she had stated in her letter. She does, however, remain concerned about insufficient lighting in the stacks.

There isn’t enough lighting in the stacks for my ‘elderly eyes,’” said Fulmer, who last visited the library 2-3 weeks ago. “I had to carry 4-5 books over to a well-lit area with a table to read what they were about.”

The library staff had heard other complaints about the lighting, which hadn’t yet been fully installed.

Within the past week or so, additional overhead lights were installed -- they were on backorder -- and we are hearing many positive things about how much better the lighting is in that area,” says Mohundro.

The staff at the library welcome feedback on the renovations and will host open houses in February, March and April to help the public “rediscover” the “reimagined” facility.

It’s your library. If you have any questions or concerns, we want to know. People really take pride in it and it’s our responsibility to be sure we are serving islanders well,” she adds.

To learn more about the renovation project, go to sanlib.org/your-library-reimagined/.