The Friends of the Lake Alfred Library are ready to move out of their old, small building and into a brand new one. (Photo by Michael Freeman).
LAKE ALFRED – Not everyone works out of a large office, but for the past few decades, some of the workers in downtown Lake Alfred couldn’t even claim they had a decently cozy space to do their job, Denise Johnson noted.
“It’s only 1,000 square feet,” Johnson said. “It’s like a closet.”
The building she’s referring to is the old Lake Alfred Public Library, which opened back in 1972, when Richard Nixon was president. Johnson, the president of the Friends of the Lake Alfred Library, said it was never really adequate for the needs of local residents.
But with local budgets tight, convincing the Lake Alfred City Commission to allocate public money to construct a new, larger building was a virtually impossible task, she said.
“We tried for 12 years to get them to do something,” Johnson said.
When it became clear the city was unable to afford the luxury of a new library, the Friends of the Library set out on a different task: to raise money privately to fund the new library.
And despite the challenge of raising funds in a weak economy, it worked. The community will celebrate the grand opening of the new, considerably larger Lake Alfred Public Library next month.
“We’re going to 6,000 square feet,” Johnson said. “We’re finally going to open a new facility that is long overdue and badly needed.”
The project became a reality when the library got a $500,000 grant from the late Dr. Edwin Moore, a research scientist.
“He was the gentleman who discovered orange juice concentrate,” Johnson said.
Using those funds, the library set out to expand.
“We found the land, and the total project was done by us,” she said. “We put it out to bid and we had 23 contractors apply.”
The construction started on Aug. 8 last year, and was just completed in recent weeks.
“We just did the closing in the first part of April,” Johnson said.
Although the project was privately financed, the library is being turned over to the City of Lake Alfred to operate.
“Now that we’ve built a brand new library, we’re giving it to the city of Lake Alfred,” she said. “We can’t run it ourselves. The city has to run it. It’s got to be a public building. The Friends built the building, but the city will be furnishing it and running it.”
Although the construction work is complete, this project is still a work in progress. The Friends have been selling used books as a way to raise more private funds to be put into the library project, and Johnson was at the LA Showcase outdoor marketplace on Saturday, April 28 with a stack of books to sell.
“We love this event,” she said. “Every month we have an opportunity to sell used books that are donated to us, and it has helped us make a lot of money.”
Part of what they’re working on now is the Eunice Moore Memorial Garden, which will be in the back of the property in honor of the wife of Edwin Moore. It will be a garden filled with Florida-friendly plants.
“We’re still seeking donations for that,” Johnson said.
As for the old library building, that will be put to good use as well, said Lake Alfred City Commissioner John Duncan.
“It’s going to be a public safety building,” he said. “We get to expand the police and fire departments into the old library.”
Best of all, Johnson said, city residents get to take advantage of a library that offers so much more than the old building did.
“It will be phenomenal compared to what we have now, because there is no space there,” she said.
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