Long-awaited library opening set for Nov. 14

Long-awaited library opening set for Nov. 14
Shelves were filling up in anticipation of the Nov. 14 re-opening at one end of the Children’s Department on the lower level of Willowbranch Branch Library.

Patrons will soon enjoy their neighborhood library once again when the Willowbranch Branch Library re-opens on Saturday, Nov. 14.

A grand re-opening celebration is planned for noon at the front entrance, 2875 Park St., with remarks from District 14 Councilman Jim Love, Board of Library Trustees member Sybil Ansbacher, Library Director Barbara Gubbin, Library Region Manager Marshelle Berry and Friends of Willow Branch Library President Roxanne Henkle.

WBLibrary_01“We know that many friends, families and neighborhood groups have been anticipating the reopening of the Willowbranch Branch Library. This library serves as a very important resource in the Riverside/Avondale area, and it has been dearly missed,” said Gubbin. “It is a lifeline for many who use the computers to search for jobs. And it’s a favorite of families who bring their youngsters to story time regularly.”

After brief remarks, the ribbon cutting will take place at the back entrance and activities during the three-hour celebration will include kids’ crafts and giveaways, door prizes, and refreshments from local establishments.

“Willow Branch Library, which has stood as an anchor in this community for 85 years will once again be ‘Open to All,’” said Henkle. “These words are written over the door of what was once the main entrance to this, our National Historical and, most important, our local treasure. It has certainly been a group effort from the City of Jacksonville, the Library, the Library Board of Trustees, the Friends of Willowbranch Library, Riverside Avondale Preservation and the community at large to make this grand reopening a reality.”

The 85-year-old Mediterranean Revival-style building was the first branch library in the Jacksonville Public Library system.

Residents created Friends of Willowbranch Library (FOWL) in 1992 when the facility faced closure due to inaccessibility for disabled persons and lack of space for programming. The nonprofit rallied the community to support a $1.3 million rehabilitation and enlargement project which included an elevator and a community room with an adjoining kitchen.

Severe damage earlier in the year from water intrusion finally resulted in the temporary closure of the community library in September 2014. At that time a January 2015 re-opening was planned, but discovery of potential lead paint issues delayed the project.

During this closure to address water intrusion, repair windows and remediate the lead paint on the windowsills, interior renovations were being planned. After the water intrusion project was completed at the end of September, work began inside to reopen the Children’s Department and the public meeting room on the lower level.

“Our children’s library will once again be open to the children of our community,” said Henkle. “We are also very delighted that we will be welcoming back our favorite staffers as well as making friends with some new faces.”

WBLibrary_02A new service desk was installed on the upper floor, where all the computers were relocated into one room. Lounge chairs and updated tables were put into the reading room. Fresh paint was applied throughout and new carpet was installed in the meeting room. In addition, 5,000 new books and videos were added to the collection. Volunteers from other branch libraries helped staff re-shelve all the items.

The iconic building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is located in the center of a designated historic neighborhood also listed on the Florida State and National registries.

“Willowbranch Library is a special place, and you feel it the minute you walk through the doors. It’s a reflection of the warm, wonderful customers who live around the area and the staff who work here,” Gubbin said. “We are just over the moon that the day to reopen this long-loved library branch is approaching. And we know the community is, too. I invite everyone to come join our celebration.”

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News
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