NEW CHAPTER FOR BONITA’S BELOVED LIBRARY
Bibliophiles will rejoice when Bonita Springs’ new and improved library opens its doors in 2019. You’ll be surprised at all the new offerings that go way beyond just checking out books.
$14 million building to open in summer 2019 in heart of downtown
“EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT”
becomes “Read all about the extras!” as one of Bonita Springs’ oldest and most cherished institutions gets a new home. The venerable public library will move in the summer of 2019 from Terry Street, where it has been located since 1976, to facilities nearly three times larger in the heart of downtown.
The $14 million library is being constructed at a site provided by the city of Bonita Springs, at Childers Street and Felts Avenue. The site is near the sheriff’s substation and landmark banyan tree. Coincidentally, the new location is a stone’s throw from the 1953 founding site of the library.
The most important change is the addition of a second floor, allowing children and teens to have their own designated sections. That should help them feel at home and enjoy activities such as story times and video and board games without disturbing others.
That added space will allow much larger attendance—up to 150 people, seated—at programs such as book discussions and civic meetings that now can handle fewer than 40 attendees. “Bonita loves and supports its library,” notes Jill Horrom, the public library system’s senior supervisor for southern Lee County. “We’re excited about this project.”
Horrom says project planners paid attention to an advance user survey showing, among other things, that most patrons use the library year-round at least once a week. Users tend to be more than 60 years old and well educated. Patrons place priorities on using the library for entertainment and education, and look forward to further online services, arts and crafts, book discussions, computer classes, movies and other presentations—and even yoga.
The new location, across the Old 41 main drag from Riverview Park and the Shangri-La resort, raises civic hopes that the modern library will be a catalyst for a long-awaited downtown renaissance. Brand-new streets, roundabouts, street lights and drainage are in place.
“Those with businesses and homes downtown are really looking forward to having this cultural resource located there,” says Bonita historian Charlie Strader. “It should be an economic anchor and a place for the community to learn and socialize.”
The venue is sure to draw a crowd. The Terry Street location, situated among Bonita’s middle school, recreation center complex and swimming pool, drew nearly 115,000 visits by patrons borrowing nearly 300,000 items last year, Lee County records show. And the library had to close down—because of Hurricane
“The library will serve as a great hub for our community.’’ — Tiffany Esposito of the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce
The most important change is the addition of a second floor, allowing children and teens to have their own designated sections. “The city is thrilled to have partnered with Lee County on a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility.’’ — Bonita Springs Mayor Peter Simmons
Irma flood damage that occurred in September—until Dec. 26.
“It will likely attract 500 to 1,000 people per day downtown, and it will be designed in the ‘Old Florida’ style that is being promoted in the downtown area,” comments Bonita Springs Mayor Peter Simmons. “It will be an anchor for downtown.”
“The city is thrilled to have partnered with Lee County on a brandnew, state-of-the-art facility,” the mayor adds. What will become of the Terry Street property is undecided, Lee County officials say.
Tiffany Esposito, of the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, concurs. “We are excited about the new library and the continued growth of the downtown Bonita area,” she says. “The library will serve as a great hub for our community.”
PREVIEW OF WHAT IS COMING
Area library chief Horrom and Lee County’s communications director, Betsy Clayton, offer a preview of what's new for the library:
• Puppet show stage in the children’s section
• A total of 50 public-access computers, up from 39 currently
• Covered drive-up area with automated returns for books and other materials
• Study rooms with Skype access, each room for four to eight teenagers
• A conference room seating up to 20 people, for nonprofit and civic groups
• Three second-floor balconies for relaxed outdoor reading
• A landscaped reading garden at ground level
Lee County Library System has 14 locations. The closest regional hub is South County in Estero, which was built in 1996. Materials at all locations will continue to be available for borrowing.
The new Bonita library will go by the official title of: “Lee County Public Library in Bonita Springs.” But for library users—whether locals, snowbirds or visitors—who are eager for a brighter atmosphere and additional services, the title will be just “Gr eat!”
Opposite page: A rendering of the west side of the new library. This page: Bonita Springs’ first library building, circa 1953; the current library.
From top: A rendering of the east side of the new library; a 1953 parade in Bonita Springs featuring a car banner promoting the first librar y; a detailed rendering of the library’s west side