“History of Palm Harbor Library”
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 April. There is so much planned, it may be the highlight of your spring! Full information will be available shortly.
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 at 2330 Nebraska Avenue. It’s a bit of a story so this will be a four-part journey. This month, our “Early History”….
The Palm Harbor Library exists today due to the vision of Mrs. Jeannette Malouf. Ms. Malouf, who was the Vice President of the Palm Harbor Civic Club, suggested to its members in February of 1978 that a library was needed in Palm Harbor. She was a kindergarten teacher at the Ozona Elementary School and was deeply concerned that the children had no library close to their homes. “The kids I taught were a big reason why I wanted the library. I’d work with them, helping them learn to read, and then it’d be the first of June. School was out and there was nothing for them in the community to help them stay interested in reading.” The Dunedin Library and Tarpon Springs Library were the closest libraries to Palm Harbor, but they were about a twenty minute drive. In addition to the distance, there was a fee that the Palm Harbor residents had to pay because they were not residents of these cities.
The Civic Club’s members voted to donate a “start-up” fund of $400 for a library. Ms. Malouf led the drive to acquire donated books from residents, other libraries, book stores, publishers’ overruns, and outdated books and magazines from publishers and distributors. Within two weeks, the book collection had grown to over 500 books. Mr. Bill Honey donated the first floor of a small house at 1205 Omaha Ave to house the library. Mr. John Hutcheons, President of the Civic Club, organized the building of book shelves with lumber donated by “Jim” Yakle of Yakle Lumber. Carpeting for the facility was donated by Mr. “Don” Valk, and Mr. Pert donated lighting improvements.
The Palm Harbor Library first opened its doors to the citizens of Palm Harbor, Ozona and Crystal Beach on April 1, 1978 and the volunteer force had grown to 24. On December 18, 1979 the volunteers formed the Palm Harbor Friends of the Library, Inc.
1980 was a busy year for the library. The library volunteers held a meeting in January to elect officers for the newly formed Friends of the Library and Ms. Malouf was made the first Director of the library. She, along with John Hutcheons, received awards from the Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce for their outstanding work in the community. By now the library had outgrown its quarters on Omaha Circle and moved into the historic Palm Harbor Methodist Church (currently the Palm Harbor White Chapel) on 12th St. in downtown Palm Harbor in December. The library boasted 10,000 volumes and served about 1,600 families.
The Palm Harbor Friends of the Library held its first annual volunteer appreciation banquet on January 11, 1981 honoring its 49 volunteers. The library hours fluctuated quarterly due to the availability of volunteers. The library operated from the semi-annual book sales and monetary donations. Also, since the number of children that participated was more than the small former church could accommodate, these programs were held in the Palm Harbor Senior Center located nearby.
By the end of 1982 the library served 2,000 families, had around 20,000 volumes and was staffed by 50 volunteers. A new dimension in library service was added when a large print book collection was donated to the library in memory of Lea Gibbons. The library also received $500 from the county to buy lumber for additional shelving for the library since it was already running out of room for all of its books.
In Part II, we’ll talk about the library’s state funding efforts beginning in 1983, creation of the Palm Harbor Fire District and the establishment of the Municipal Special Taxing District.
Gene P. Coppola, Library Director