The new library’s teen area. Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Ron Hayes
A good half-hour before the 11 a.m. grand opening ceremony for the newer, bigger, far more beautiful Lantana Public Library, its public was already finding seats under the party tent by the new front doors.
The Lantana Middle School Symphonic Band was tuning up. Volunteers were setting out refreshments in the new community room. Dignitaries were greeting dignitaries.
And back in the new teen room, the library director was gathering her thoughts while a friend, Michelle Lee, primped her hair.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Kristine Kreidler said. “I worked 77 hours this week, and 73 the week before.” She smiled. “I haven’t even had time to see my friend’s new baby. I think I’m going to take tomorrow off.”
Town Manager Brian Raducci reaches for the scissors after library Director Kristine Kreidler and foundation Chairman Robert Barfknecht cut the ribbon.
When the speakers had spoken and the doors had been thrown open, the curious would find themselves in a library they may have been in but had never seen before.
Separate rooms for youth and teens, a community room, a private study room and an outside reading garden for book club discussions — all brought together through a bright blue nautical theme to honor the small town’s home by the big blue sea.
Surfboards on loan from the Surfing Florida Museum hang from the ceiling and surfing history panels adorn the walls. In the youth room, a large mobile by installation artist Ashley Nardone dangles handmade turtles and fish from a circle of scalloped waves. Peer up at it and you’re underwater. Even the carpeting is shades of bright blue.
But first there was a ribbon to be cut.
After the band’s 32 seventh- and eighth-graders had entertained with the Copper Creek March, Michelle Donahue, a library foundation board member, welcomed the crowd with a brief history of the library.
“It’s been a long time coming,” was heard more than once this Feb. 22 morning. But did that long time begin in November 2019, when the renovation planning began? Or perhaps 1947, when the Lantana Woman’s Club accepted 900 books donated by the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach and lending began in the Community Church on Oak Street?
Either way, the celebration was a long time coming.
In 1952, the library moved to the old bridge tender’s house and stayed until 1994, when the town bought the former Carteret bank building at 205 W. Ocean Ave. The bank had gone bust three years before, and on April 21, 1996, another grand opening was celebrated.
For the next 27 years, Lantana had a library in a bank building. Now, after this massive renovation, it has a library in a library building.
“Since 1996, you’ve had a library with a bank vault and teller line and a drive-thru window,” the renovation’s architect, Samuel Ferreri of PGAL architects, explained. “By removing those, we were able to increase the library’s space by 33%, to about 5,100 square feet.”
Robert Barfknecht, chairman of the library foundation, reflected on the challenges that had been overcome.
“We had $80,000,” he recalled, “when we dreamed of doing this.”
The county’s 1-cent sales tax brought $400,000, and the Town Council added another $300,000 from undesignated reserves.
There had been delays, a construction company replaced, and cost overruns, but no one lingered on those this breezy blue morning.
This was a morning for looking forward to the new library behind those new doors and looking back at childhood memories.
“I used to take my daughter to the library every Saturday,” acting Mayor Karen Lythgoe recalled. “Now she goes there with her daughter.”
Teresa Wilhelm, president of the Friends of the Library, remembered going sometimes twice in one day.
“I went to the library by the bridge and got two books,” she said, “and if I finished them, I went right back and got two more.”
And then she put in a plug for the Friends.
“It’s only $5. You can sign up your kids to be Friends,” she enthused. “We even had someone sign up their puppy.”
Libraries exceed Starbucks
Brock Peoples, director of the Southeast Florida Library Information Network, offered some perspective.
“There are more than 16,000 public libraries in the U.S.,” he said. “That’s more than McDonald’s or Starbucks.”
But this morning was about only one of those 16,000, and the library director spoke last.
Kristine Kreidler, hair nicely primped, remembered a day back in November 2019. She’d just been hired when Debbie Manzo, the town manager at the time, told her, “We have money for you to design a library.”
Kreidler met with Barfknecht, and the two set to work. Barfknecht focused on the financing while Kreidler designed what the new library should look like and offer.
The Lantana Public Library, founded 75 years ago by women, was being ushered into its future by a woman.
“I always came in to do battle with a town council based on what other librarians at other town libraries had told me,” Kreidler told the crowd. “But never once was that necessary here. This town council was always completely supportive.”
Now the time had come.
Kreidler and Barfknecht posed before the ribbon blocking the new front doors, each with a hand on the traditional oversized scissors.
Some may not have noticed, but the traditional red ribbon was not really red. It was magenta — and the exact same color as Kreidler’s skirt. This was not a coincidence.
Then the scissors snipped, the ribbon fell, and the crowd had its first look at the new old library.
If anyone thought the final cost of $1,505,000 was extravagant, nobody was saying so. The teen room, the youth room, the community room and the dazzling nautical theme throughout with the surfboards, the dangling fish and turtles and the ocean blue carpeting, all brought smiles of approval.
Seated in a corner of the youth room, under the nautical mobile, Catlin and Cameron Snow were especially excited. Along with their daughter, Coral, 2, they had brought a baby carriage.
“Today was supposed to be my due date,” Catlin Snow said, “but C.J. was 21/2 weeks early.”
Finally, the library’s exhausted director could relax a bit and meet her friends’ new son.
On March 11, a community celebration will be held from noon to 3 p.m. at the library, with food trucks, face painting, a bounce house, goodie bags and an introduction to all the library has to offer.
For more information, contact Kristine Kreidler at 561-389-2486 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.