Winter Park Library – Doorway to the Future

Guest Columnist – Thaddeus Seymour

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

Winter Park Library – Doorway to the Future

“I Can Hardly Wait”

The Winter Park Public Library has been an important part of our lives ever since Polly and I moved here nearly forty years ago.  We remember the original wood building next to All Saints on Interlachen, and we were among those volunteers who helped the library move all those books to its new home in 1979.

From “Hush . . .” to the Liveliest Place in Town

Happiest of all have been the years of admiring the creative new ways our library has served the community.  When we first knew it, the library was primarily a repository for books, and the byword was “Hush . . ..”  Now it is the liveliest place in town.  Have you seen those trees created out of discarded plastic bottles, representing world religions?  Are you one of the thousands of learners who has attended one of the 700+ classes and discussions?  Have you ridden one of the bikes, perhaps the tandem?  Have you checked out an iPad? Have you tended to the plants?

Younger folks would describe today’s library as a “happenin’ place.” But we are running out of space, out of ways to make “happenin'” things happen, out of the cyber technology to support and advance what our patrons want and need.

21st Century Opportunity

Now we have the opportunity to carry this spirit into the 21st Century with an exciting new library — designed with more room for books, study, creative activities (like Makerspaces), adaptable areas. Each a doorway to the future.

The prospect of a new, flexible facility, designed to accommodate needs we can’t even imagine, is truly exhilarating, especially in the setting of Martin Luther King Park. How exciting to imagine a place in Winter Park where we all can be a part, not only of the past and the present, but of a future we can hardly imagine.

“I Can Hardly Wait for Move to MLK Park!”

The workshops and discussions over the past two years have engaged us all in the excitement of new ideas, new designs, and new opportunities.  Sam Stark and his Task Force have done a superlative job of exploring alternatives and “making the case.” Most of all, they have considered various locations and unambiguously selected the northwest corner of Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.  I can hardly wait!

The recent vote proclaims that the community can hardly wait, either.

Let’s Embrace the Future. No More Fights.

Then along comes a political PAC, stirring up a bunch of people, including some of my good friends.  And suddenly I dread that we are headed back to the dog park days, where it seemed that everyone, also including lots of friends, was mad.

Oh, please, let’s not have another ugly fight.  The vote is history.  Now let’s have the fun and excitement of working with architects, designers, librarians, and educators to build a library which will be the pride of Winter Park and the envy of other communities.

I am confident that our new library will be a rich resource, reflecting Winter Park’s historic dedication to new ideas and forward thinking.

Let’s Get On With It

And I have no doubt that it will breathe new life into Martin Luther King Park, which is a lively place on its playing fields but pretty quiet and empty at its north end.  Our new library will not only enrich and enhance our lives but will also provide new opportunities for all of us to enjoy and appreciate Martin Luther King Park.

We’ve had our vote and we know its outcome.  Now let’s get on with it.

Editor’s Note:  Seymour was president of Rollins from 1978 to 1990 and continued to teach English there until 2008. He has been a member of the Library Board and served as its Chairman 1996-98.

Library Update: Citizens Petition Group Moves Forward to Block MLK Location

Library Update: Citizens Petition Group Moves Forward to Block MLK Location

Despite City attempts to erect roadblocks, the Save Our Library PAC announced today that it will move forward with its Citizens Initiative Petition to prohibit building a new library in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.

Public Meeting Wednesday, May 11, at the Community Center

The Save Our Library PAC, led by Michael Poole, Sally Flynn, Charley Williams, former Commissioner Margie Bridges and former Mayor Joe Terranova, will host a public meeting: Petition forms will be available for citizens to sign and circulate.

Winter Park Community Center –
721 W. New England Avenue
Wednesday, May 11, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.


City Denies Citizens’ Request for Petitions

In an email to Save Our Library PAC President Michael Poole, City Clerk Cindy Bonham stated in part: “The request for petition forms . . . is not timely, as the petition forms you have requested . . . appear to constitute a reconsideration or referendum to repeal Ordinance No. 3020-15 and the City Commission’s decision to locate the library and events center in Martin Luther King Park . . . . Referendum petitions must be filed within 30 days after adoption of the ordinance to be considered.” (To view the entire email, click here.)

Ordinance Silent on Library Location

Ordinance No. 3020-15 is the Bond Referendum language that appeared on the March 15, 2016, ballot. It specifically omits any language pertaining to the intended location of the library/events center.

Citizens Initiative Petition

The request filed by the Save Our Library PAC was a Citizens Initiative Petition, not a Referendum Repeal. A group representative told the Voice they do not seek to overturn the bond referendum, nor do they seek to prevent the construction of a new library/events center/parking structure.

The group seeks to prevent a new library from being built in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.

The Winter Park City Charter, Sec. 5.01. – Initiative, states: “The qualified voters of the city shall have power to propose ordinances to the commission and, if the commission fails to adopt an ordinance so proposed without any change in substance, to adopt or reject it at a city election.” No time limitation is specified.

City Attorney Advises

In email correspondence obtained from the City, City Attorney Kurt Ardaman advises Cindy Bonham that she is under no obligation to respond to the citizens group, but he suggests possible wording of a message she might send to Michael Poole, if she concludes that the Petitioner’s Committee Affadavit constitutes a Referendum rather than an Initiative.


Political Motivation?

PAC President Michael Poole stated that he believes the City’s position is politically motivated. “This is just another attempt by government to suppress the citizens’ rights,” said Poole. “We are going ahead with our petition drive.”


Asked why she had concluded that the petition in question is a Referendum Repeal rather than a Citizens Initiative, City Clerk Cindy Bonham replied by email.
“Ms. Mooney:
The charter language.

Sec. 5.02. – Referendum
The qualified voters of the city shall have the power to require reconsideration by the commission of any adopted ordinance and, if the commission fails to repeal an ordinance so reconsidered, to approve or reject it at a city election.

The final decision to put the library/events center in MLK Park happened last October and was confirmed with the ordinance calling for a bond referendum that was adopted in November. The time to have made this challenge would have been within 30 days of that ordinance adoption in accordance with Section 5.02 and 5.05(d) of the City Charter.


Petition Seeks to Block Library Construction in MLK Park

Petition Seeks to Block Library Construction in MLK Park

winterpark-library2Late yesterday, documents were filed with the City forming a citizens’ Petition Committee to pass a Winter Park City Ordinance that will prohibit construction of a new library in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.

The five-person committee, led by Keep Winter Park Beautiful and Sustainable Advisory Board Chair Michael Poole, includes Sally Flynn, Charley Williams, former Commissioner Margie Bridges and former Mayor Joe Terranova.

Sole Purpose: Keep Library Out of the Park

The effort has a single purpose – to prevent construction of the library in MLK Park. Poole emphasized that the petition drive has nothing to do with the bond referendum, the disposition of the Civic Center or the ultimate location of the library — provided that location is not MLK Park.

“While it is likely, if the petition is successful, the library will remain in the downtown core,” said Poole, “we are not attempting to specify or even suggest an alternate location. We simply want to prevent the library from being constructed in the [Martin Luther King, Jr.,] park.”

Petition Forms Available Next Week

Poole said the committee would begin circulating petition forms this coming week after they have received them from the City. He said he would post an announcement on the Save Our Library PAC website to let people know whom to contact and how to participate, if they wish to do so.

As of this writing (it is, after all, Saturday), Library Board of Trustees President Marina Nice was unavailable for comment. Updates will be issued as more information becomes available.

Win – Win for the Library

by Vicki Krueger – Guest Columnist

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

Win – Win for the Library

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.”

Albert Einstein

Vicki KruegerWinter Park values its library and agrees, in principle, with the objective of creating a relevant 21st-century facility. Similarly, the Rachel Murrah Civic Center is beloved, but as currently configured, is said to no longer serve today’s needs.

The proposed “fix’ for these venues is to abandon the existing library and demolish the Civic Center to create two new buildings and a garage on park land at a cost to the taxpayers of $43 million ($30 million bond plus approximately $13 million in interest).

Win or Lose?

When Winter Park citizens are faced with decisions, too often their choices are structured as “win or lose,” which has the effect of pitting friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor and half the city against the other half. The winners gloat over their victory, earning the enmity of the losers. This paradigm is evident in the current Library and Civic Center bond issue, where the vote passed by a razor-thin margin.

Or Win – Win?

However, there is another approach to problem solving that mitigates the enmity and disarray resulting from a win-lose paradigm. A “win–win” approach accommodates all stakeholders, creating a result where everyone benefits, but not through another’s loss. Although no one gets it all, all the participants benefit in one way or another.

At the informational Library meetings I attended, Winter Park Public Library Executive Director Shawn Shaffer and City Manager Randy Knight discussed the shortfalls of the existing facilities and proposed what was necessary to create 21st- century venues. By applying a win-win approach, those expressed needs might be accomplished as follows.

New Building on Current Library Site

First, construct a new four-story building on the site of the current Library parking lot. The first and second floors of this building would provide parking, and the third and fourth floors would satisfy the need for additional meeting space and would contain up-to-the-minute technology. The new building would be connected to the original building via one or more walkways and would contain an elevator that could accommodate a gurney in the event of a medical emergency.

Reading Areas for Children

Once the new building has been completed, begin modification on the original Library building.  Ms. Shaffer frequently spoke of requests for child-friendly areas. Turn the entire first floor into a Children’s Area. It has adequate space to accommodate children’s needs and is already computer ready. After the completion of the first floor, the second and third floors could be updated.

One benefit is that the Library could remain open during construction of the new building and renovation of the original building. An additional benefit might come in the form of an agreement between the Library and the Alfond Inn, allowing the Inn the use of the garage after Library closing hours in return for payment to the Library, which would provide income to the Library.

Civic Center: More Important Than the Library?

The morphing of the site description from “Civic Center” to “Events Center” and the repeated calls for a venue accommodating 400-500 people has some of us believing that the perceived need for a new Events Center and parking garage is greater than that of the Library.

However, in a “win-win” approach, the remedy for the stated inadequacies of the current Rachel Murrah Civic Center seems neither impossible nor even difficult. Using a portion of the bond money, the Civic Center could be upgraded by modifying the interior space to create multiple sized spaces and a beautiful new front entrance opening onto the park, and upgrading the parking.  With only the Civic Center building on the site, it might even be possible to downsize the garage, thus creating a scale more in keeping with the park.

Over the years in Winter Park, there have been many calls for more civility, for bringing the community together and for ending the hostility that has resulted from the many battles over issues.  Hasn’t Winter Park had enough of “win-“lose”?

Isn’t it time for Winter Park to “WIN-WIN”?


WP Still Divided Over Civic Center/Library in the Park

Is the MLK Park Location a Done Deal?

WP Still Divided Over Civic Center/Library in the Park

Once again, Winter Park residents filled the hall at the Community Center to discuss the library, raising still-unanswered questions. Chief among them was the location: Is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park location a “done deal?”

The April 21 meeting was sponsored by the Citizens for Managed Growth PAC. City Manager Randy Knight, Library Board of Trustees President Marina Nice and head of the Save Our Library PAC Michael Poole formed the panel to address citizens’ questions.

City Plans – Moving Forward

Randy Knight began the evening’s agenda with a discussion of the timeline and the process by which the City intends to move forward. The date of the April 21 meeting coincided with the submission due date for architects’ proposals. Knight reported that 14 architectural firms have submitted proposals. A selection committee will identify four or five finalists who will make oral presentations to the City Commission.

Serving on the seven-member selection committee are City Manager Randy Knight, Public Works Director Troy Attaway, Assistant Parks & Recreation Director Brenda Moody, Building & Sustainability Manager Kris Stenger, WPPL Executive Director Shawn Shaffer, Library Board of Trustees VP Daniel McIntosh and Commissioner Peter Weldon.

The City Commission will announce the selection of the architect at the May 23, 2016 meeting.

Info/Feedback Sessions in May

Leading up to the second Commission meeting in May, the Library will hold three open-house-style public information and feedback sessions in the Library Community Room.
Thursday, May 5 – 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 7 – 9:30 a.m. to Noon
Friday, May 13 – Noon to 2:30 p.m.

Design Phase to Run Through 2015

Randy Knight explained that the design phase for the new library/civic center will extend from June through November of 2016. As this phase nears completion, probably in early fall, the City will project the final cost of the project and will issue the City bonds in that amount.

Wrecking Ball to Hit Civic Center January 2017

Once the Commission approves the design, the City will bid out the construction components of the project – probably in November or December 2016. The last booking at the current Civic Center is December 20, 2016, and the Civic Center is scheduled for demolition in January 2017.

Residents Ask, What’s the Rush?

Despite the even tenor of the panelists’ presentations, Winter Park residents remained divided on the issue of the new library cum civic center. Former Winter Park Mayor Joe Terranova articulated some of the concerns when he said he thought the project was moving too quickly.

Cynthia Mackinnon, mayoral candidate in 2015, said she thought much of the push-back the City is getting stems from citizens’ perceptions that there was less than full disclosure about the scope of the project. She described being approached six weeks before the March 15 referendum vote by a fundraising consultant for the library. She stated that it was in the meeting with the fundraiser that she and her husband first learned of the full scope of the project.

In a memo to the panelists and Commissioners sent April 22, Mackinnon summed up her misgivings. “In summary, first, I continue to hope the idea of a different location is not completely off the table. As the location was not part of the ballot language, I don’t see why it has to be.”

She continued, “Second, I also agree with Joe Terranova’s comment that this project seems to be proceeding with surprising haste. Why, when the vote was close and you have organized push back?”

Michael Poole: ‘It’s Not Too Late’

In an April 22 interview with the Voice, Save Our Library PAC President Michael Poole expressed sentiments similar to Mackinnon’s. Asked whether he thought the MLK Park location was a ‘done deal,’ Poole responded, “I don’t know. It could be changed if enough residents raise their voices to reconsider the location – to the Commission and to the Library Board of Trustees.”

No Business Plan

Poole said he had reservations about the decision, made by the Commission after they accepted the Library Task Force report, to combine the Library and the Civic Center. “When they put the two together,” he said, “there was no discussion about the synergies and how this would work programmatically. No one knows what the operating costs will be. They are going ahead. . .without a good business plan in hand.”

Moving City Hall Could Change Things

But, said Poole, “Now that the City is looking at using the [current] library facility for City Hall, there could be a whole new dynamic.”

As for his plans for Save Our Library, Poole stated, “I am going to continue to use the PAC to educate the public on issues and how they can voice their opinions.”

At the end of the day, said Poole, it’s the Library Trustees who are guiding the process. “If they said ‘Stop,’ the Commission would have to listen.”

To view the entire panel discussion click here.

City Hall to Move Next?

City Hall to Move Next?

Now that Winter Park voters are on board to pay for a brand new library, the city is cautiously considering moving city hall into the current library building.

After city staff recommended exploring the idea Monday, city commissioners called for more information about the site’s strengths and weaknesses. A staff report said the building was in “good” condition with a “fairly new” heat and air-conditioning system and energy-efficient lighting. City Manager Randy Knight also said some current city-hall functions could be moved to another site if they didn’t need to be in a prime location.

Not everyone was enthusiastic about the idea, however. Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel noted the city already knows about the existing library from the research done by the Library Facility Task Force. The task force nixed renovating the building after concluding it has too many challenges, including poor wi-fi connections and limited space and parking.

Commissioners Pete Weldon and Carolyn Cooper both stressed the importance of hearing from the public before making any decision about city hall or any other high-profile city properties valuable to residents. Cooper said it was “fiscally responsible to explore reuse of that [library] building,” but she would not support selling the property.

One staff option for city hall never made it into the discussion. Staff raised the possibility of another bond-issue to build a new city hall on the Park Avenue site, but Mayor Steve Leary said any discussion of that idea was “premature.”

Meanwhile, Winter Park’s new library seems destined to be built in Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The issue was never raised Monday except for a plea from former mayor Joe Terranova during the public-comment portion of the meeting. “You’re going to have to reconsider this,” he said, noting the close vote on the library bond issue. “You have a split community now.”

New Commission - Old Divisions

Library Still a Bone of Contention

New Commission – Old Divisions


Anyone who saw in the most recent election the opportunity for resolution regarding the library and its future location may be disappointed. Discussion at the March 28 Commission meeting seemed to indicate that the Commissioners have a ways to go before they find themselves singing from the same page.

Seidel and Leary Disagree on Location

Commissioner Greg Seidel stated his preference for the library to remain in the downtown core of the City. Mayor Steve Leary was emphatic in his preference for the Rachel Murrah Civic Center site in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.

Sprinkel and Cooper Looking for a Plan

Commissioners Sarah Sprinkel and Carolyn Cooper acknowledged the plan for this facility is still in its infancy and will require further lengthy discussion. This part of the process will probably move right along, however, since the Request for Qualification (RFQ) for an architectural design firm was issued on March 16, the day following the election. Submissions are due April 21.

Referendum Language a Problem

A major sticking point seemed to be the bond referendum language that was on the March 15 ballot, which did not mention the intended library site. In a spirited exchange with Commissioner Cooper, Mayor Leary observed that everyone knew the recommended site was in MLK Park, and that to even discuss deviating from that plan would “fail the smell test,” amounting to “bait and switch” for the voters. Cooper reminded Leary that when she had moved to specify the location in the referendum language, the Commission had withheld its support.

City Attorney: ‘You Can Sue’

City Attorney Kurt Ardaman articulated the means by which the City could deviate from the MLK Park site by filing a bond validation lawsuit. Ardaman explained that while the referendum wording does not irrevocably tie the project to a location, it does dictate the shape of the project. Because of the referendum language, the City must build a combination library/civic center/parking garage – wherever they build it.

The Commissioners agreed to continue the discussion at the April 11 Commission meeting.

Disposal of Library Property?

The April 11 agenda will include the matter of naming rights, which will accrue to citizens who donate money to the library to fulfill the Library Board of Trustees’ obligation to raise $2.5 Million toward construction costs. The other item on that agenda, sure to inspire some spirited dialogue from the dais, will be the disposition of the current library property.


Winter Park Chamber of Commerce Endorses New Library and Events Center

Winter Park Chamber of Commerce Endorses New Library and Events Center

Winter Park, Fla. (February 26, 2016) – The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors passed a resolution in support of a new library and events center. In the resolution, the organization acknowledges the significant increase in services provided by the Winter Park Public Library over the last decade, the thorough research and study conducted by the City of Winter Park Library Task Force and the need for new facilities which will better serve its members and the greater community.

“The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce is proud to endorse the passage of the referendum on the city ballot for a new library and events center,” said Lou Nimkoff, chairman of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. “This project is in alignment with our mission, which is to develop, promote and sustain a vital, thriving business climate and to initiate, support and enhance the civic, educational and economic well-being of the area. We look forward to future community dialogue on this important project.”

Prior to issuing its resolution in support, the Chamber received guidance from its Council of Leaders, a large body of past board chairs, former mayors and other community leaders. The organization also engaged its members and the community on the topic at a recent Good Morning Winter Park program in which Winter Park Public Library Executive Director Shawn Shaffer and Winter Park City Manager Randy Knight shared need for new facilities details of the bond referendum facing voters.

“We believe our members, and the community-at-large, will be better served by new facilities, which will allow for expanded educational and entrepreneurial programs, collaboration, access to technology and upgraded facilities,” said Patrick Chapin, President/CEO for the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce.

The Winter Park Public Library extends one full-service library card to each member of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce making future expanded services a valuable benefit to its members.

A bond referendum for a new library and events center is currently facing Winter Park voters with municipal elections to be held on March 15, 2016. A copy of the referendum language can be found at Additional information on the project is available at

The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce represents more than 800 businesses, community organizations and individuals in an effort to develop, promote and sustain a vital, thriving business climate throughout the community and to initiate, support and enhance the civic, educational and economic well-being of the area.  For more information visit

WP Public Library ‑ The Future Is Now

Stephen G. Pategas, Guest Columnist

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

WP Public Library ‑ The Future Is Now

DSC_3704 LinkedIn 9-09-09 Stephen Headshot Adjusted 4-20-09While there is a well-established need, either for a new library building or a major renovation to the current building, the process that got us to this point was flawed and has created confusion and uncertainty. But, that is water under the bridge. It is no longer about process. It’s about what our community needs.

WP Library Ranking Plunges

Winter Park residents have only limited access to the Orange County Library system. Years ago, we decided to go it alone. We have built a proud tradition of an independent not-for-profit library that is partially supported by the city. From 2001 to 2006, our library was the highest ranked in Florida. But that was a decade ago. Now, newer Florida libraries have passed us by.

Initially I was concerned about the selection of Martin Luther King, Jr., Park for a new library.  I thought, “Too far out of downtown,” and “Park land should not be built upon.” I did some research and visited a new state-of-the-art library in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Eye-Opening Trip to Iowa

Cedar Rapids2

Cedar Rapids Public Library

With a population of 126,000, Cedar Rapids’ library is larger than we need, but it boasts the amenities we need on a smaller scale. The Cedar Rapids Library opened my eyes to what a library can be and how the space can be arranged to fill many needs and inspire minds of all ages. I realized our current library could never provide the opportunity to create a facility of this caliber. Renovation dollars thrown at it would just be ‘good money after bad.’

Most Oft-Used Public Facility

The Winter Park library is our most visited public building, receiving about 600 visitors a day. Although it is close to Park Avenue, many visitors still drive there, and frequently they have trouble finding parking. If you do walk, it is nine minutes from the SunRail Station. The MLK Park location would only add an additional four minutes. Buses are available to both locations.

Needs More Than Cosmetic Surgery

Our current building is a dysfunctional embarrassment. When the third floor was tacked on 20 years ago, the design for the stairs was compromised. The elevator cannot hold a gurney so, in an emergency, a patient would have to be hand-carried down steep stairs. The building needs rewiring, and the cramped bathrooms do not meet current code. The history collection is not protected with climate control and is not fully accessible. Too many still-current books must be cycled out, youth activities are restricted and meeting space is limited.

Cedar Rapids1

Modular Storage, Cedar Rapids

Meanwhile, the Cedar Rapid’s library has numerous spaces that attract widely diverse groups, and the roof top garden is a revenue- generating event venue overlooking a park. Their children’s area is almost the size of our whole first floor. Their café is a popular gathering place.

Go-To Place for Technology

A fair number of Winter Park residents do not have internet access, so our library is the go-to place for job hunting, research and staying in touch with grandchildren. A new facility might include visualization and incubator labs where students, artists and startup businesses could access evolving technology such as 3D printers. Can you think of any place other than a library that would offer free or low cost public access to this kind of technology?

Revitalize MLK Park

The new building in MLK Park will use only an additional one-quarter acre of park space. That equals a parcel 100′ X 108′, which is smaller than most home lots in Winter Park. The area not used for playing fields and playgrounds is underused. Locating a combined library-civic center there would attract many people to these under-utilized areas. Meanwhile, the lake edge setting is dramatic, engaging and ripe with outdoor educational opportunities. A library in that location would better serve the West Side community, which used to have a branch library in the old community center.

‘Downtown’ Has Grown Beyond Park Ave.

Our downtown used to be only Park Avenue, but now it has expanded to include Hannibal Square and even Winter Park Village. Downtown is expanding as our city continues to evolve. The Civic Center, which is already on park land, is undersized, outdated and ready for a major rehab. Save those renovation dollars and use them for a combined, more efficient structure.

Our choice is clear.

Renovate two structures, and still fall short of our needs? Or, build one well-designed, architecturally significant facility designed for the future, with a parking deck softened by vegetation that would screen park and library users from the new commercial development along 17/92?

We should be thinking, not of the kind of library we have used for generations, but of the kind of library today’s youth will be using 10 or 20 years from now. Vote for a library that young people can use now and into the future.