New Venice library to be named in honor of city resident contributing $1 million as endowment for it

William H. Jervey Jr. honored at County Commission meeting

Members of the Sarasota County Commission join staff and Library Foundation representatives in celebration of William Jervey’s gift. Jervey is fourth from the left. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

When the new Sarasota County public library opens in Venice in 2018, it will bear the name of a city resident who has contributed $1 million to the county as the first step in creating an endowment for the facility.

The County Commission voted unanimously on Oct. 10 to approve staff’s recommendation to call the new facility the William H. Jervey Jr. Venice Public Library.

A retired professor of political science at the University of Central Florida, Jervey, 73, has been a Venice resident since 2009, a county news release notes. “He also committed $250,000 as an estate gift” to the Library Foundation for Sarasota County, which “will benefit the entire county library system,” the release adds.

In related action on Oct. 10, the board unanimously approved the Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) for the construction of the facility in the footprint of the library the previous commission closed in January 2016, in the wake of concerns about persistent mold in the structure.

The GMP is $8,797,102, a staff memo says. Doing business as Ajax/Tandem Construction, the Ajax Building Corp. — which has an office in Venice — and P.J. Hayes Inc. — based in Lakewood Ranch — are overseeing the project, including the hiring of subcontractors. Ajax/Tandem is serving as the construction manager at risk, to ensure the library comes in at or below budget.

Jervey acknowledged this week that he was one of the board’s “chief critics” when it made decision last year to close the library. “I loved that place,” he said of the facility that opened in October 1965. “It was like a second home to me.”

However, the design of the new facility, created by Sweet Sparkman Architects in Sarasota, “is absolutely gorgeous,” he pointed out.

As for the interior, he continued, “I cannot fathom how state-of-the art and efficient it is going to be. It will truly put the old library to shame.”

Commissioner Alan Maio thanked him for expressing his frustrations last year “without beating us bloody.”

Additionally on Oct. 10, the commissioners approved a revised contract with Sweet Sparkman Architects of Sarasota for a total of $904,183 to handle administrative services for the project.

Sweet Sparkman Architects has created this rendering of the new library in Venice. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Love of libraries

Although the naming rights item was not listed on the board’s agenda in advance of its regular session in Venice this week, County Administrator Tom Harmer reminded the board members that the issue of naming opportunities for the new library arose during their Sept. 26 session.

Harmer added that county regulations allow the commission to name facilities in honor of people who contribute major donations. In this case, he continued, the contribution would be $1 million. “It’s in partnership with the Library Foundation [for Sarasota County].”

“I wholeheartedly believe in the powerful potential of public libraries and the dedicated staff who serve there to effect positive change in the lives of individuals,” Sarabeth Kalajian, director of the county’s Libraries and Historical Resources Department, told the commission. Jervey “not only shares that belief in the possibilities that lie in the resources available at the public library,” she continued, “but he takes action to extend that promise to other citizens, and that, to me is … memorable.”

Sue Seiter, executive director of the Library Foundation, pointed out that nearly 80% of county residents have library cards. “They love their libraries.”

She extended appreciation from the foundation to the commission for its “capital and operating support.”

Then Seiter explained that part of the mission of the foundation is to raise public awareness about libraries and to generate private dollars to supplement tax dollars. As a result of its efforts, she added, the foundation has accumulated assets exceeding $1.3 million in the five-and-a-half years since it was established. The organization each year commits half of the proceeds from its annual fundraising luncheon to its endowment, Seiter noted.

Most recently, she continued, the foundation brought in $550,000 over 12 months for the endowment for its Children’s Literacy Endowment. “We have learned how to raise money.”

However, she said, “this gift from Bill Jervey marks a whole new frontier for the Library Foundation.”

His $1-million endowment, she added, “which will be a huge building block for the new Venice library; it will provide innovative services, programs and collections” for the people of Venice, and “his gift will motivate others to think big and help secure the future of our libraries.”

A graphic shows the location of the new library on the Cultural Campus in Venice. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Karajan pointed out, “From an early age, Bill visited the public library, where an interest in history motivated his reading and learning.” Among the earliest subjects he studied, she continued, were finance and the stock market, which “contributed to his success. From that time until now, he has been right at home in libraries.”

“It’s not an overstatement to say that were it not for libraries, I would not be here today,” Jervey told the board, adding that it will be an honor to have the Venice library bear his name.

He first came to Venice more than 60 years ago, he added, “and I’ve been in love with it ever since.”

He hopes others will join him in contributing to the endowment, he said.

Chair Paul Caragiulo called the donation “just an extraordinary act. … We really, really, really appreciate it tremendously.”

Commissioner Maio made the motion to accept the contribution and to approve the naming of the new library in Jervey’s honor; Commissioner Nancy Detert seconded the motion.

Applause rang out in the Commission Chambers following the vote.

The groundbreaking for the new library is set for 9 a.m. on Oct. 30 on the Cultural Campus in Venice. Completion of the project is expected in late 2018, according to the staff memo provided to the board in advance of the Oct. 10 meeting.

Facets of the design

The memo regarding the Guaranteed Maximum Price says, “The new library building has been designed as a hybrid model, exemplifying a blend of the latest practices in service delivery with more traditional services that remain relevant to the community needs.”

The facility not only will lend books to patrons and offer services to youth, but it also will provide “public access computers, wireless internet access [and] informational and educational programs, while serving as a community gathering space,” the memo adds.

It will have a drive-through book return feature, the memo notes, and pedestrian walkways will be constructed from the parking areas “for enhanced patron safety.”

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