ELLENTON -- When a new library opens in a neighborhood, many residents say the feeling is like getting a gift.
That’s because a library can become a cozy place to read, rest, meditate, learn something, search for a job, meet a friend, hear a speech on an important community matter or teach a child something new, said Cheri Coryea, Manatee County’s director of the Neighborhood Services Department.
On Tuesday, hundreds of Ellenton residents and others came to see their gift, the new “Roaring” Rocky Bluff Branch, which hosted its grand opening celebration.
While the word “ecstatic” should be used sparingly, it seemed to apply to many of the patrons who entered the new Manatee County library branch, which gets its “Roaring” nickname because it used to house the 400-seat Roaring 20s Pizza and Pipes restaurant on U.S. 301.
“Look at these crowds,” said librarian Meg Hawkins, of the State College of Florida library. “I am seeing people with huge smiles. The community is ecstatic. I love what I see, especially the teen hang out.”
“It’s terrific,” said an Ellenton dad, The Rev. Joe Brown, who walked to the new branch with daughters Marijoe, 12, and Hannah, 13.
“I like the fact that it is nicely sectioned off,” Brown said. “You can navigate it easier. It is great for kids with a teen room. It’s easy to find my videos and histories.”
The new branch has 10,000 square feet of space with books in all formats, a new computer lab with 15 sites when done, lots of free parking and a coffee bar already in place that will become operational in January, said Ava Ehde, Manatee County’s Library Services manager.
The former Rocky Bluff Branch, which was in the nearby Ridgewood Shopping Center and served the community from 1994 until Sept. 30, had 4,700 square feet of space.
Manatee County was able to purchase the Roaring 20s Pizza and Pipes from a bank for $700,000 and it cost $500,000 to transform it from a restaurant to a first-class library, said the beaming Coryea.
“It was a good deal for us,” Coryea said. “This restaurant had been appraised for $3.5 million. But it had also been gutted by vandals who removed the copper wire and other essentials.”
No one was beaming more than Brenda Booth, the Rocky Bluff supervisor.
“I am totally amazed how many people worked together to create this beautiful space,” she said. “I am not surprised the community seems to be loving it. They are deeply invested in their library.”
The branch will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. It’s closed Sunday and Monday.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, Ext. 6686.