EAST MANATEE -- Over the years, Kathy Drendel has spent a lot of time at the Braden River Library.
Since the East Manatee resident homeschooled her children, now in their 20s, that regularly brought them to the branch. Drendel has been a volunteer with the Friends of the Braden River Library since 2003, and still volunteers there about five hours every week.
"It's been a wonderful experience because of the people that run the library," Drendel said. "They always treated us like family. They embraced us completely and that's what they do with the people there. That's why we've enjoyed it so much."
The Braden River Library opened its doors for the first time 25 years ago Thursday. On March 17, 1991, the library opened inside a trailer on four acres, which was originally used by the Man
atee County Sheriff's Office as "a place to corral their rustled cattle,"
A little more than six years later, the library, which is the second-largest branch in the county, moved into its current 15,000-square-foot facility at 4915 53rd Ave. E.
"The branch has grown a lot in the years I've been here," Braden River Library branch supervisor Cathy Laird said. "It just continues to grow and serve the community."
At 10 a.m. Saturday, there will be a celebration at the library to mark the 25th anniversary with speakers, a live jazz performance by Lady & the Bard and refreshments.
"We recognize the fact that library service has been going on for 25 years, so we felt it was appropriate," Laird said. "It is a good opportunity to remind the community what a gem we have in the community and honor the people who made it happen. It is a chance for us to say, 'Thank you.'"
Manatee County Commission Chairwoman Vanessa Baugh, who represents East Manatee, said it's amazing to her that the library is celebrating 25 years.
"I think we are really blessed to have the library there," said Baugh, who will be speaking at Saturday's celebration. "It's a great asset to East Manatee."
Library's growth over years
When Laird started as the Braden River Library branch supervisor in 1998, there were only a few books on each shelf. In the beginning, the East Manatee library had only 5,000 volumes, circulating 7,000 books a month.
Today, the library, which rivals the Central Library in terms of circulation, has 84,000 items, serving an average of 652 people each day. For each minute the library was open in 2015, 2.3 items were checked out.
"The collection has grown exponentially," Laird said.
As East Manatee continues to grow, the library branch does as well, Laird said.
"We have really expanded the programming," Laird said, adding that there is a lot for all ages. "We are trying to have things for people of all ages and people of all different interests."
On Wednesday morning, Parrish resident Vaishali Patel drove her son, Dhyan, to the branch for story time.
"That teacher is good," she said. "The books are very good. They have a separate room for story time."
Story time is also a draw to the library for East Manatee resident Sarah Perkowski, who brings her 3-year-old twins to the program every week.
"I love it," Perkowski said. "We keep coming back."
Perkowski's sons, Adam and Chase, look forward to coming to the library's story time.
"They are way into it," she said.
The Braden River Library is "bursting at the seams," Laird said.
Some relief may be coming in 2018 as the county is working with the Braden River Friends on expanding the facility. The Braden River Friends have committed $20,000 toward architectural plans for an expansion.
"We really could use more space," Laird said. "We definitely need a second meeting room. We need more study rooms for the public to use and meet tutors and students to use for quiet study spaces. We are such a busy place, it is hard to find a quiet corner so having some extra room to put in meeting spaces would be very beneficial for the community."
A new library impact fee, which will go into effect April 18, is being looked at as an option to fund the expansion, said Cheri Coryea, the county's neighborhood services director.
"It could be for capital expansion where you can confirm there is a growth in the area and the population, which we do have extensive growth there," she said. "It is something we are looking at. We obviously don't have funding set aside."
An expansion would allow Manatee County to "respond better to the needs of community members of all ages," said Ava Ehde, the county's library services manager. "The use of Manatee Public Libraries continues to increase annually, demonstrating the growing and vital need for library services and resources."
With all the growth occurring in East Manatee, Baugh said they have to both keep up with the Braden River Library and consider the need for adding another library.
"We've got to continue to grow that library because we are growing," she said. "Here we are in 2016 and people still love the library."
When the Braden River Library opens each morning, there are people waiting to come in, Laird said.
"We are hoping to expand our library and grow with the community to continue to serve their needs," she said. "I just want to continue offering exceptional library service. It is a joy coming to work. I want to continue to grow programs as much as we can and provide things to the community they can't get elsewhere."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.