This past year, the county said goodbye to its librarian, while the city of Apalachicola said hello to a new library.

As the year drew to a close, amidst tensions between Carrabelle staffers and county library administration, librarian Annie Birchwell, who had been confronting several health issues over the past several months, announced her retirement.

By year’s end, after an extensive search, the county commission selected Panama City’s Lisa Lance to oversee the libraries in Carrabelle and Eastpoint. She is expected to begin next month.

Meanwhile, in Apalachicola, thanks a benefactor’s bequest, a state grant, the schools’ generosity, city officials’ persistence and library backers’ enthusiasm, the new Apalachicola Margaret Key Library started to sprout. That municipal library is not affiliated with the county system.

At a ceremony Oct. 14, beneath a sunny sky on a hot morning, ground was broken on the new site, adjacent to the Chapman Schools building at 80 12th street. The project is expected to be completed by April 2017, at an approximate cost of a little more than $900,000.

A state grant, first applied for in 2011, kicked in about $497,000 to help fund the project, on a lot transferred to the city from the Franklin County Schools at no cost. An additional $400,000 is coming from the estate of the late Margaret Key, and it is in her honor that the library was named a few months back.

Architect Warren Emo described his work as “a pleasurable project (in which) the amount of interest from all the parties has been remarkable.

“We’re so pleased,” he said. “It’s very rare to attend a groundbreaking for a brand new building. I hope there will be a time when children and grandchildren can come together and enjoy it.”

Emo stressed that the “very significant challenge” has resulted in a building that is a tapestry that blends modern services with homage to the city’s past, including the use of granite and other materials that were transported down the river decades ago into the once bustling port.

Librarian Caty Greene and Bonnie Fulmer, president of the Patrons of Apalachicola Library Society Inc. (PALS) spoke on behalf of the need for additional private sector funds to fully equip the new library. Donation can be made at or by sending a check to PALS, P. O. Box 293, Apalachicola, FL32329.

Two Apalachicola Bay Charter School third graders, Valerie Shattuck and Jaliyah Rochelle, were plucked from the large crowd of students who were on hand to take part in the groundbreaking, together with a host of dignitaries.