The new Eastpoint branch of the Franklin County Library opened on Tuesday afternoon with much fanfare.

More than 150 people attended the grand opening ceremony coordinated by Joyce Estes, president of the Friends of the Franklin County Libraries.

Estes gave a speech including a detailed account of the library’s history, and paused to thank everyone who had contributed to the library’s completion. “We’ve milked every cow out there,” said Estes.

Denise Butler, who also contributed much to the establishment of the new facility, thanked Estes, her friend of 37 years, and called the Eastpoint library, “The second jewel in our crown.”

After a rocky and broken path to completion, which dates back about eight years, the new facility is a tremendous asset to the county.

The entry to the new library is graced by a donor tree with gold, silver and copper leaves created by Allan McPhee.

The 5,000-square-foot Vulcan steel building houses more than 17,000 volumes of fiction and nonfiction including a section devoted to Florida and Franklin County history and Spanish language books. There is also a large selection of DVDs and recorded books.

The new facility boasts 15 public access computers: six general access, two dedicated for access to government resources like food stamps and child services, five for teens and two computers for tweens grades four through seven.

A multipurpose activity room provides a venue for meetings and for outreach to younger children including reading aloud and storytelling. Located there is a large wall mounted “smart board” an interactive whiteboard that uses touch detection in the same way as a touch screen computer or tablet and can also be operated using a mouse.

There is a reading area for children, an activity room dedicated to teens and much needed additional office space for the library staff and volunteers.

A new self-serve, coin-operated document center, the Envisionware Document Station, allows patrons to scan, copy, fax and print documents.

The 13-acre wetland setting of the building is delightful and in addition to providing a relaxing view for visiting patrons, protects critical wildlife habitat. The Friends received support and guidance from the Apalachicola Riverkeeper and the Northwest Florida Water Management District to restore the wetlands and plan to create a nature walk.

The nature walk and landscaping for the library have been put on hold due to economic constraints and the Friends are currently seeking funds to pay for external improvements to the library building.

Construction of the library was funded with federal grants and money raised by the Franklin County Public Library.

The library was designed by Ivan Johnson, of Johnson Peterson Architects of Tallahassee.

County library Director Glenda Ondracek who retires at the end of October said, “This has been a wonderful opportunity and great challenge. I’m glad we were able to make the transition to the new building and that I was a part of that. I’m very satisfied with all of our accomplishments. We now offer more services and programs to our patrons both adults and children.”

Commissioner Pinki Jackel, who represents part of Eastpoint and St. George Island on the county board, could not be present, but, speaking on her behalf, County Planner Alan Pierce thanked everyone who brought the library project to fruition and gave special credit in words penned by Jackel.

“Today is a historic day for Franklin County citizens and for the Franklin County Library community,” Pierce read. “From the beginning, this has been a labor of love.  A task that seemed large at first and grew to be monumental before completion.  The vision that became this library is simply incredible.  A beautiful setting, a beautiful modern interior that will be a delight and joy for so many for many, many years to come.  

“All along the way, from the beginning until this day, two women (Denise Butler and Joyce Estes) have steadfastly contributed their time, energy, blood, sweat and tears. We want to thank them for their commitment and dedication to our community.”

Ondracek said traffic at the library remains the same as at the old location, 70 to 80 patrons daily. She expects that number to increase since the library staff is seeing many new faces, especially youngsters, and some long-time patrons have yet to visit the new building.

How to get there

The new location, 160 Hickory Dip Road, is less than one mile from the previous library site. If coming from St. George Island, take Island Drive, cross Hwy 98, to Old Ferry Dock Road. Make a left on Old Ferry Dock Rd. and continue to Hickory Dip Road and make a right turn. The entrance to the library is on the left side. From Hwy 98 turn right on Norvell Street next to the Chevron Station, left on Ferry Dock, right on Hickory Dip Road and turn at the first left, an unpaved drive.