History of Flagler County Public Library

The County Commission officially created the Flagler County Public Library in 1987, but its origins date back many years. As early as 1937 a room of the County Courthouse in Bunnell was set aside for a small library sponsored by the Colony Club. In 1950, the newly formed Woman’s Club of Flagler County also organized a library, but the city of Flagler Beach remained their primary area of activity and funding.

In late 1974, Pat Cafaro, a newcomer to Palm Coast and employee of ITT, decided to organize the Palm Coast Woman’s Club. She recognized the need for library reference material for students in the newly opened high school and rallied the club to establish a library. The closest public libraries were in Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach, presenting a problem for the new community. David Kantor, the Director of the Volusia County Libraries was contacted for advice. He recommended contact with the State Library System in Tallahassee. Pat Cafaro and Woman’s Club member Winifred Flanagan pursued the project. Mrs. Lois Fleming of the State Library system worked with the local group and in 1976 a formal proposal was made to create a Volusia Count satellite library in Flagler County Library. There was insufficient support for the venture at this time.

In 1978 The Woman’s Club encouraged the president of the Civic Association, Merhl Shoemaker, to join forces in the library effort as a bicentennial project. Together, they pursued the establishment of a county library separate from Volusia. In 1980, the Palm Coast Library was opened in a storefront shared with Daytona Beach Community College.

ITT donated a piece of land at what was then the far end of Palm Harbor Shopping Villages and contributed the services of an architect. Merhl Shoemaker, now a County Commissioner, persuaded his fellow Commissioners to set aside $40,000 to be used as a matching fund for a grant from the State of Florida. By 1983 a small library was built and serviced entirely by volunteers. Book sales provided funds for shelving, desks, and books. The Woman’s Club continued their active participation, providing staffing on Mondays of each week. A retired librarian, Betty Miller, organized the collection and trained volunteers. Soon the space was outgrown, and once again state grants and county funds were obtained. The expanded facility was increased to 5,600 square feet.

On February 19, 1987, the Flagler County Public Library became an agency of county government under Flagler County Ordinance #87-4. A professional Librarian was employed and The Friends of the Library donated all of their purchases to the newly established county entity.

When Daytona Beach Community College expanded its facilities, the idea of a joint public and community college library was considered, but it was decided that the public library should remain independent. A strong collaborative relationship continues as the College contributes significantly to the expansion of the Library’s collection and students of the College are given full use of library holdings.

By the mid-1990s, the Library facility was again outgrown, due to the rapid growth of the county. Sandra Rose Friedman, president of the Friends of the Library, began a discussion of the need for a new library of sufficient size to provide for the collections, programs, and services needed by Flagler’s citizens. In 1996 a Public Library Construction Grant Application was submitted to the State Library. A $400,000 construction grant was awarded in August of 1997 to help fund the construction of the facility. The nicely wooded, 19-acre site donated by ITT, is located at the intersection of Palm Coast Parkway West and Belle Terre Parkway.

Groundbreaking for the new library was held on October 19, 1998. Completion is projected for November 1999 with occupancy shortly thereafter. Design of the library is by Harvard, Jolly, Clees and Toppe, Architects, of St. Petersburg. Hashman Construction Company is the contractor for the project.

The history of Flagler County’s Public Library is a chronicle of the hard work and vision of its citizens and elected leaders. Volunteers continue to play a major important role. No one holds this view more strongly than Library Director Doug Cisney does. He states that “More recognition should be given for the strong community support provided by all the groups, elected officials, Friends, etc. over the years. Without this support, Flagler County wouldn’t be beginning the new millennium with the new 30,000 square foot library.” The future success of the Library will depend on the continued active participation and support of these staunch allies as well as the infusion of new arrivals to the area.

Author: FCHS