Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Library Anniversary Celebrates Impact on the Community

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Library Anniversary Celebrates Impact on the Community

Article excerpt

Byline: JAYNE KRICHBAUM

As librarians prepared and sorted materials for the opening of the Charles D. Webb Wesconnett branch library three decades ago, they saw signs of just how hungry residents in the isolated area were for the facility.

"You could see nose prints all over the windows where adults and children had pressed their faces to the glass to see inside," said Margaret Smith, first branch manager and keynote speaker at the branch's recent 30th anniversary. "We could tell how much people were looking forward to it."

One of Jacksonville's busiest libraries, the branch celebrated the milestone in late November with an audience of those closely tied to its creation and success. More than 50 people crowded the conference room to hear guest speakers, have refreshments and view a presentation.

Centrally located on the Westside, the library has now become a hub for the neighborhood, providing books, computers, digital media and services. The library served 397,671 patrons during fiscal year 2008-09. It checked out 555,243 books, DVDs, CDs and audio books - compared to 378,178 books, records and art reproductions in 1979-80.

"It's a local landmark," said Erica Brown, branch manager. "It is one of the older regional libraries and we thought the 30th anniversary was a good time to celebrate."

Webb Wesconnett is one of 14 branch libraries and was the second constructed. It was designed by architect Ted Pappas, who attended the anniversary with his wife, Mary Lee. The brickwork is outstanding and the mason won an award for its design, he said.

"We wanted the building to be distinctive, and we wanted the arches to be the focal point of the building," Pappas said. "At that time it was one of the few buildings out here."

Thirty years ago, the area was rural. A strawberry field was located across the street, and 103rd Street had two lanes.

Within eight days, 2,270 new patrons were registered, and by the end of September 1980, 16,414 library cards had been issued.

"The Webb library was a hit from the very beginning because it was the only library besides Willowbranch, which is in the Riverside/Avondale area," Smith said. …

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