The books are coming off the shelves, being inspected and one-by-one they are joining the growing piles of boxes in the library.
“The first day, I brought in 20 boxes, and we filled them,” said Michael Miller, administrator of the Johann Fust Library Foundation. “The second day I brought in 30. Today, I picked up 50 more boxes.”
Each book has to be checked. Over the years Fust has amassed a collection of books with dedications, autographs and personal touches from island residents and visitors.
“We want to be careful that we don’t lose any of that,” said librarian Mary Vickers. “We are sorting to keep the full complement of books between the two collections. Of course we are keeping our special collections. Our books on the Civil War, World War II, Florida history and, of course, our local author collection, will remain with the library.”
The library’s displays are also going into storage. According to Miller, the rare book collection and the library’s collection of antiquities are both going into secure storage at a currently-undisclosed location.
George Melissas, the man who donated many of the library’s beautiful shells, will be packaging both of the library’s shell collections. While the renovation is underway, Melissas will clean the shells, catalog them and make labels for the new display that will be built to house the combined collections.
Fascinating discoveries are being made in the process of clearing the shelves.
One of the most interesting is a map of the western coast of Florida and the Gulf coast of Louisiana, dated 1776 by one Thos. Jeffreys, Cartographer to His Majesty.
“Of course we are going to have a professional come in and look at it, but so far everyone who has seen it thinks that it may be original,” said Miller. “Also, we have an original copy of the very first chart done of Charlotte Harbor back in 1863 after the Civil War. You can see the creases where it was folded and stored in a surveyors desk.”
Everything possible will be saved of the old fixtures. Even the outbuilding doors that will be replaced with ADA accessible doors will still have a life at the library.
“We plan to take the doors apart and use the old cypress wood to build some of the new displays,” explained Miller. “The old card catalogs, along with the collections of cards that are still in them, are going to the Historical Society.”
Newer items that will not remain at the library will be sold.
“We’re not going to put a price tag on anything, but we will take reasonable donations,” said Miller.
One thing that will be there to greet visitors when the library reopens will be the pair of cypress tables in the entryway.
“We have had several people tell us that the tables have always been there and that we have to keep the coffee machine,” laughed Miller.
So they will be in place when the newly-restored library is unveiled in early 2013.
Exterior changes to the building will include new translucent panels over the current wooden-slat roof of the existing potting shed to create a "secret garden" area, a new storage building and new handicapped-accessible parking, and entry to the building.
The remodeling is being done in such a way that the only changes noticeable from the street will be those to the garage.
For the past year, the board of the Fust Library has been working on an agreement with Lee County Library Systems that includes taking the Reference Room materials from the Boca Grande Community Center to the Fust Library.
The Fust library will maintain full ownership of the building and grounds and the endowment. It will continue to be responsible for ongoing operating and maintenance expenses for the buildings and grounds.
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