County library services in Hamilton Building drew more than 1,100 people a day in first week

Interim facility opened on Oct. 4; new library anticipated to be completed in fall of 2018

The Hamilton Building will serve as the temporary library location in Venice. Photo courtesy Sarasota County
The Hamilton Building will serve as the temporary library location in Venice. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

In its first week of operation in Venice’s Hamilton Building, Sarasota County’s interim public library on the island of Venice was averaging 1,120 visitors per day, Sarabeth Kalajian, the county’s director of libraries and historical resources, reported to the County Commission.

The Hamilton Building is located at 260 N. Nokomis Ave. It is owned by the City of Venice.

On Oct. 11, as part of her ninth update to the board since it closed the Venice Public Library in January, Kalajian said that on Oct. 4 — the first day library services were available in the Hamilton Building — staff recorded 2,227 visitors.

Voicing concern about persistent mold in the Venice Public Library at 300 S. Nokomis Ave. — and its potential for negative effects on the health of patrons, volunteers and staff — the County Commission voted unanimously on Jan. 12 to close that building. In an Oct. 17 email exchange between Assistant County Administrator Steve Botelho and Venice City Manager Edward Lavallee, Botelho confirmed that “work thus far” shows the parcel where the Venice Public Library was located still is “the preferred site [for the new facility] and that is what will be presented in detail to our Board” in November.

Sweet Sparkman, the Sarasota architectural firm that is designing the new facility, “just wrapped up [its] effort,” Botelho noted.

In a separate email, Assistant County Attorney Mark Cunningham confirmed that that update would be provided to the County Commission on Nov. 8. “Our intent is to submit plans to the City’s Technical Review Committee for initial development review immediately following [that board discussion],” Cunningham added.

A recent memo to the County Commission said construction plans should be finished in the fall of 2017, which would allow for the project to be completed in the fall of 2018.

Kalajian also pointed out on Oct. 11 that county employees cleaned all of the computers, equipment, furnishings and other materials from the old library before relocating items to the Hamilton Building or putting them in long-term storage.

The interim library is open on the same schedule provided in the past at the Venice Public Library, she added: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Sarabeth Kalajian. File photo
Sarabeth Kalajian. File photo

Kalajian also noted that more than 680 people have signed up for the emails county staff sends out with updates about the library situation in Venice.

After she concluded her remarks, Chair Al Maio told Kalajian that he believed he was speaking for all the commissioners in saying, “If ever I was put in a pressure-filled situation like you have been this year, I hope I handle it with the grace and style that you did.”

“Thank you very much. That’s very kind,” Kalajian responded with a big smile.