The original, award-winning St. Pete Beach Library was built in 1969 by Glenn Johnson, an architect famous for designing the “bird cage” houses in St. Petersburg. Now, a $2.1 million renovation of the new St. Pete Beach Library is almost complete, but with a nod to the architect’s original vision. The renovated library opened to the public on March 1.
“We brought back some of the features that it had before. We are using an antique font that was on the building originally,” Betcinda Kettells, director of the St. Pete Beach Library, said. “We’ve got some mid-century modern furniture in the building. We’ve brought it back to what it was originally intended to look like,”
Orange and yellow tones illuminate the vintage library font on signs throughout the building. Local artist Dean Fortune added to the beachy feel of the library by complementing the interior with aquatic murals.
New additions include a delivery ramp, a larger book drop, circulation desks that allow staff to sit or stand during shifts, electrical outlets in the floor, new computers and repainted walls. The air conditioning ducts, ceiling, lighting, mid-century furniture and carpeting is brand new, as is the security system.
“I think just the fact that we renewed the architect’s vision of what the library was going to look like, I think that’s really a big thing,” Kettells said. “It’s the standard idea to modernize all the buildings and we did the opposite. We took it back to its original glory so that the outside of the building, which wasn’t going to change, would match the interior, too.”
Two years ago, the staff started scouting for a temporary location to house inventory during renovations. Since the roof had to be removed to renovate, all inventory was moved.
The library moved into a suitable spot next to P.J.’s Oyster Bar on Gulf Boulevard last March, at the start of the COVID pandemic.
“The library staff devised a way to differentiate between the stuff in the front of the house, the materials that could be viewed and checked out, and the stuff in the back warehouse section because we couldn’t find a place big enough for patrons to be in the whole building,” Kettles said.
Now, the collection is back in its refreshed vintage home.
The Friends of the St. Pete Beach Library contributed $26,500 to the library for signage, benches, bike rack, self checkout and the new book drop. The library also had $150,000 remaining in grant money from the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative, which was allocated toward the renovations.
“We did write … a library construction grant, but the legislature didn’t fund those this year, and so we had to come up with the money ourselves,” Kettells said. “Some of the money came from past donations to the Library Renovation Campaign and the rest of it was provided by the city’s general funds.”
The parking lot is still undergoing renovations, which should be done in April, Kettells said.