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NFM library rededicates Rotary plaque

By CHUCK BALLARO - | May 5, 2021

County Commissioner Brian Hamman and Rotarian Norman Jones, who was secretary when the original library was created, unveil the old plaque, that was rededicated Thursday at the North Fort Myers Library.

news@breezenewspapers.com

It was thought that the Rotary plaque that hung on the wall at the old North Fort Myers Library was gone forever.

When it was re-discovered recently, Rotary wanted to make sure it returned to its rightful place.

Thursday, inside the main entrance at the new North Fort Myers Library, county dignitaries and library staff gathered for a rededication of the Rotary plaque that had been in place since the very first library was opened on Bayshore Road in 1975.

Three of the five county commissioners were at the ceremony, including Brian Hamman, who said this was a significant day in the history of the library. Commissioners Frank Mann and Ray Sandelli, who are Rotarians, were also present.

“It’s a great day whenever you can honor the history of North Fort Myers and the folks who helped us get this facility originally. The plaque has been beautifully restored and for generations people will know how this all got started,” Hamman said.

Rotary President David Rice said it had been quite a task trying to find the old plaque, as they searched for it for more than five years.

A couple months ago, it was finally found in a storage room, and Rotary couldn’t bear to lose it again.

“Commissioner Hamman came to speak at one of our meetings and we asked if we could do some kind of ceremony for the plaque and they arranged it,” Rice said.

Among the names on the plaque was that of Norman Jones, who was secretary of Rotary at the time. He was at the ceremony and talked about how the library got started.

In the early 1970s North Fort Myers Rotary, which had just been founded, saw the need for a new library.

“Our first president, Dick McConville was obsessed with the idea we needed a library in North Fort Myers. He was a Navy veteran and discovered that the Key West Naval Department was closing down and they had 6,000 books,” Jones said. “Dick secured those books and even convinced them to hold them until we had a place to put them.”

They secured a small shop on Bayshore Road, which was donated, placed those books on shelves they had to build themselves and talked the Fort Myers Library System into letting them have “half a librarian.”

In 1980, a donation from Dr. Williams Dakos and the Lee County purchase of the adjoining land helped in the building of a new library in the same location. It opened in 2019.

“Lehigh Acres had gotten $280,000 toward a new library. I went to the county administrator and asked why they got money for a library and we didn’t. He said ‘You didn’t ask,'” Jones said.

A few weeks later, North Fort Myers asked for and got $280,000 toward the new library, Jones said.

Mindi Simon, director of the Lee County Library System, said it was great to hear the stories.

“It’s great to hear how dedicated the Rotary were to bringing a library to North Fort Myers and that the county has kept up with that work,” Simon said. “We’re proud of the feedback we get from this library from all ages. It’s been very well received.”