The Longboat Key Library — filled with unsung heros

Contributing Columnists

Founding the Library on Longboat Key was a grass roots initiative by early “settlers.”  As is often the case on Longboat Key, a group of residents envisioned a way to enrich the Island beyond its natural beauty.  On November 26, 1956, twelve motivated women met to discuss forming a library.  They immediately went to work on accomplishing their objective.

Because many people had expressed a desire for easily available fiction, children’s and reference books, those became the project focus.  Marian Chambers and Dorothy Bertolett, co-chairmen, were chosen for a six month term to form a constitution and by-laws.

A room was rented in the Twin Tarpon Shopping Center at 6350 Gulf of Mexico Drive.  Chambers donated the rent, Ansel McMichen made bookshelves, and friends provided equipment and painted the shelves.  Books were donated, and purchased with cash contributions.  On January 15, 1957 the Library opened with a membership of 55 and 400 books to lend.  The

Joyce Paley

original name was Longboat Public Library.

In 1958, there were 1900 books, and Advertising Cards were placed in rental houses, motels and other buildings.  The Library received good publicity in The Longboat Lookout, and the Newspaper wrote articles and originated a fund raising campaign that brought in donations to help the Library grow.  Despite the cash infusion, the Library was running a deficit; a shell exhibit was held at Chambers’ boat house.  It was a success, and the year ended with a positive bank balance of $539.

There were 119 members by the first of 1959 and 3000 books on the shelves.  Patron membership was reduced to $10, and letters were sent to Longboat residents asking for new members.  Another shell show netted the Library $158.48.  Book reviews were held at a private home and in the recreation hall at Gulfshore Trailer Park; they garnered very little cash.

Sheldon Paley

In 1960, another shell show, but no books were purchased due to lack of funds.  At that point, there were 3640 books and 140 members.  Marion Chambers contacted attorney Lynn Silvertooth about a charter for the Library.  Mr. Silvertooth drew up the incorporation papers free of charge.  As of

March 20, 1961, the Library was legally the Longboat Library, Inc.  This established it under the Laws of the State of Florida as a non-profit organization, and donations were tax-exempt.

Five years after they opened, in 1962, the Library was overcrowded and moved to a larger room in Longboat village.  A Children’s hour was initiated on Saturday mornings. There were 114 members,  4000 books on the shelves, and a bank balance of $2562.28.

Ed Bertolett sent a letter to the Town Council asking for the Library to be included in the 1965 budget, but his request was denied.

The Tenth Birthday year the Library had $7,521.13 in cash, 6500 books on the shelf, and 400 members.  A building fund was established and received generous individual donations, and other proceeds from a “Trifles and Treasure” Sale.

In 1968, Arvida offered four-acres of land for a municipal site.  The Library board had hopes for gaining part of that land.  By 1970, Arvida had promised a plot of more than one acre for the Library.

Committees were formed, plans made, and appeals asked for funds to share in a great community project.  Using drawings of the outside architecture, a floor plan and information about how the library operates, the Sarasota HERALD TRIBUNE and the weekly ISLANDER carried illustrated articles.   In addition to cash gifts solicited by members of the Finance Committee, more than 400 contributions of unsolicited funds were received in the mail.

Dedication of the new Library took place on February 6, 1971; it was a memorable year, fraught with financial difficulties.  Because Library land was to be leased from the Town for 99 years at $1.00 yearly rent, the law required that the full amount of the building contract be placed in escrow.  Bids were higher than expected, so the agreement with the builder covered only the essentials.  Yet, the new Library opened completely furnished and landscaped with bookshelves filled to the top in January 1972.

Dottie Bertolett steered the presidency for the third time; there were 800 member families and 7500 books on the shelves. Dottie worked with the volunteers until 1975.  She exemplified the original group of women and men who never gave up or stopped working until they brought their goal to fruition, enhancing life on Longboat Key.

The founders wrote in their book of donors for the expansion fund:  “We, the Longboat Library Board and Members, agree that the money invested in books and in libraries is money invested in light for the mind.  Wealth in ideas is the most powerful and precious of all wealth.”

Sheldon Paley, a resident of Longboat Key for 20 years and a realtor for 13 years, is affiliated with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty. Prior to moving to Longboat Key, Paley attended Ohio State University; U of Pennsylvania School of Dentistry and Harvard Medical School for 18 months for a degree in Implantation.

Joyce Paley attended Miami University, Ohio State University and Capital University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a degree in Professional Writing.



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