New Venice Library construction well underway, with completion still planned for fall

Next community workshops on the project set for May 1

The area of the reading garden at the new William H. Jervey Jr. Venice Public Library is visible in a recent photo taken at the construction site (left). Images courtesy Sarasota County

“We’re moving swiftly along,” Sarabeth Kalajian, director of Sarasota County’s Libraries and Historical Resources Department, summed up progress on the William H. Jervey Jr. Venice Public Library last week.

Her remarks came during a joint meeting of the County Commission and the Venice City Council, which was held in Venice on Feb. 28.

The timeline still calls for the facility to be completed this fall, approximately one year after construction began.

The next community update will be provided on May 1, Kalajian said, with sessions planned from 10:30 a.m. to noon and from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Venice Community Center, where the commission and council were meeting on Feb. 28.

“As you arrived here today on the Cultural Campus,” Kalajian told the boards and audience members, it was easy to see the status of the project. “Now there are exterior walls that have gone up,” she pointed out, so people can “get a sense of the scope and scale of the new building.”

Kalajian added, “I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that this has happened almost overnight.”

In January 2016, the County Commission voted unanimously to close the doors of the former library structure — on the same site — because of persistent mold problems. The board members explained that the measure was necessary to protect the health not only of county employees but also of patrons and volunteers.

The demolition of that facility was completed on May 1, 2017. Almost exactly five months later — on Oct. 30, 2017 — the groundbreaking was held for the new library.

A chart shows the timeline for steps in the process to build the new facility. Image courtesy Sarasota County

“With the completion of the rough framing of the windows and entry,” Kalajian pointed out on Feb. 28, “you can see the rich Venetian architecture influence” on the design. The curbing already has been set for the new entrance from Nokomis Avenue, she continued, and it is even possible to see the space planned for the “lovely reading garden.”

Thanks to the City Council’s generosity, she said, that garden will include a fountain and comfortable furniture.

As for the temporary library services Sarasota County provides in the Hamilton Building: Kalajian reported that staff and patrons have been “busier there than ever.” In January 2017, she said, staff recorded 10,420 visitors. This January, she pointed out, the total was 12,600.

After Kalajian completed her remarks, County Commission Chair Nancy Detert said, “Is there anything but applause for Sarabeth’s presentation?” After the applause ended, Detert joked, “You should have seen what happened to us when we tried cutting her budget.”

During the County Commission’s last budget workshop — on Jan. 31 — several county residents urged the board members not to cut the Libraries and Historical Resources Department’s budget as the commissioners sought measures to balance their 2019 fiscal year budget. During earlier budget discussions, other members of the public had offered similar pleas. Responding to community concerns, the commissioners chose not to close the libraries for a second day of the week. That would have saved the county $197,142 a year, staff had reported.

During the Great Recession, a previous commission had made the decision to cease library services on Sundays.