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Fort Myers Beach Library celebrates 65th anniversary

By Staff | Oct 2, 2019

What started out as a tiny cottage on the beach where you could borrow books has turned into a marvel of library science.

The Fort Myers Beach Library celebrated its 65th anniversary last Wednesday, with no real party of note, not even a birthday cake.

Its history, for many, is celebration enough.

The library opened Sept. 25, 1955, in the cottage, still standing at 1698 Estero Blvd. It housed 1,200 books, and, if more than five people were inside at one time, the librarian, Marge Quigg, had to step outside, according to the history.

In 1956, this was made the first free public library in Lee County. The cottage and its subsequent slightly larger one evokes a lot of fond memories for some of the longest-tenured Beach residents.

The library, as it is today, didn’t take form until 1994, when the new building was finished.

The Kiwanis donated the flagpole and the Friends of the Library helped finance the landscaping.

Jayne Coles was the director of the library from 1975 to 2000, when Leroy Hommerding was hired as the replacement.

The library went through several years of growth, eventually expanding into a facility housing 77,000 items, including 58,000 books, 7,400 videos, and 5,200 audios, according to the library’s website.

The last major expansion started in 2010, which is the current version of the property. The grand opening was held in 2013, which has since seen record increases in patronage.

“And the most important part of construction was that we were on time and drastically under budget,” Sallie Seabury, president of the Library Board, said.

With Leroy Hommerding’s death in 2019, Cletus Poser was selected as director, with John Lukow serving as assistant director.

Among the books, amidst the stacks, memories are housed.

“My fondest memory of the beach library was all about my dad and whatever book he was reading,” Mayor Anita Cereceda said. “My father was a voracious reader and every week he would go for the latest Robert Ludlum or James Patterson novel and come back with a story from the ladies of the library whom he loved to chat with. We had a lending library for years here at the pier peddler and our customers would bring books, take walks and use what they needed. My father loved it and so did they.”

Seabury remembers the efforts of the director who made it a Beach gathering place.

“I’ve always loved how warm and inviting we’ve made it when Leroy (Hommerding) took over,” she said. “He wanted a community to be happy and have its own space and be welcoming to its people, so that’s what we’re driven to accomplish. We want the people of the beach to come out and enjoy the facilities and work together on puzzles and feel welcome.”