Director’s Report

April 2018

History of Palm Harbor Library Part III

Believe it or not, your library will be celebrating its 40th birthday this April! Wow, what an accomplishment! When you think that we are not governed by a city nor county government, that all our governing boards are led by community members, that the bulk of the workforce are volunteers and we rely on ourselves for most of the yearly operational activities and capital projects, pat yourself on your back. We have done a heck of a job all these years.

To recognize what we as an unincorporated community have achieved, there will be a week-long celebration in late April. There is so much planned, it may be the highlight of your spring! Full information will be available soon.

Meantime I thought it would be a nice idea to share the history our library; to show the humble beginnings, how we received funding and why we’re now located at2330 Nebraska Avenue. It’s a bit of a story so this will be a three-part journey. This month concludes with preparing for a new building…


In November, 1985 the inaugural members of the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency (PHCSA) were Jeannette Malouf and Betty Stegman who represented the Friends of the Library, Jim Sunderman and John Gibbelino who represented the Palm Harbor Recreation League, Dale Belcher and Robert Sippel who represented the Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce and Jack Latvala was appointed by the Pinellas County Commission.

In February 1986, the library learned that the American Library Association recommended that the new building needed to be at least 15,000 sq. ft. in order to serve a population of 35,000 to 50,000. The only site available from the County to accommodate a building that large was a two-acre plot south of the Palm Harbor Day Care Center at Pennsylvania Ave. The library called for people to write to their legislators and ask for state appropriations for the construction of the library. The building fund stood at $115,000. The Friends of the Library were asking for donations of money, materials, and services to keep down the cost of the construction. The preliminary plans for a 15,000 sq. ft. building would cost $750,000. The Pinellas County Board of Commissioners agreed to lend $180,000 to PHCSA to help pay some of its start-up costs. In September, PHCSA signed a contract to purchase 3.3 acres on County Road 94 and Nebraska Ave. for $250,000 or nearly $75,800 an acre. The Library Board issued a resolution stating that since it wanted the library built as soon as possible, it would approve the Nebraska Avenue site, provided that the appraisal of the land showed that it was worth the $250,000 asking price. The Library Board hired a librarian to write a report as to the suitability of the Nebraska property versus two other sites that the library had considered. County Administrator Fred Marquis said that the resolution and the report were necessary before the contract for the Nebraska site could be presented to the County Commissioners for approval.

A $1,620,000 bond issue proposal from the C&S Bank was also accepted by PHCSA in September. This proposal allowed 324 tax-free bonds in $5,000 increments to be sold to investors to finance the library and recreation facilities. If the bond proposal was accepted by the county, the proposal would provide PHCSA $1,550,000 byNovember 20. The bond issue was chosen over conventional financing because of the lower interest rates. In December, the County Commissioners approved the purchase of the property on Nebraska Avenue for the site of the new Palm Harbor Library. The county also approved to loan the money to PHCSA. Architects Ted Prindle and Don Davidson were selected to design the new library building and by March 1987, the preliminary site and floor plans were completed and submitted to Tallahassee to satisfy the requirements of the $200,000 construction grant

During the same month, Debra Rhodes was hired to be the Library Director. She had a Masters of Library Science from Western Michigan University and came from Portsmith, VA where she had served as a Library Branch Manager.

The fund raisers for the library continued with donations from the Junior Women’s Club, and Antique Doll Show and a raffle of a quilt donated by the Quilter’s club. By mid-summer, the final site plan was approved. The Notice of Bid to construct the Palm Harbor Library, issued by the architect Prindle Associates, Inc. of Clearwater, FL was published on July 19July 26, and August 2, 1987. Lincoln Construction won the bid with $643,884. The groundbreaking ceremony for the Palm Harbor Library was conducted on August 14, 1987. In recognition of her efforts, PHCSA voted to name the youth room in Jeannette Malouf’s honor and so to this very day, it is known as the “Jeannette Malouf Youth Room”. Construction started two weeks later. The library was on its way to being completed.

The new library building slowly emerged on the Nebraska site in early 1988. The certificate of occupancy was received in June. Book shelving was delivered in June and the books transferred to the new building. On July 5, 1988, the Palm Harbor Library officially opened its doors for business. Dedication of the building was on Sunday, September 17, 1988.

And the rest they say is history.



Happy Reading!

Gene P. Coppola, Library Director

Author: PHLIBAdministrator

Share This Post On