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A History of the Friends of Shannon Staub Public Library, Inc.,
a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Corporation

Every library needs a Friends group as a strong advocate for its programs, services, and funding. The Friends of Shannon Staub Public Library, Inc. supports Shannon Staub Library at STC-North Port in the County of Sarasota and the State of Florida. The organization is committed to raising funds to supplement the library budget for programs and equipment.

The Shannon Staub Library is the second library located in the City of North Port. It is located at the south end of Sarasota County and North Port to service the many communities and neighborhoods in the south Sarasota County area.

Our history began in the spring of 2015, when the Sarasota County Library System, the State of Florida, and the City of North Port announced plans for the building of a new public library on the same campus of the soon-to-be-built new Suncoast Technical College in North Port along with a Conference Center. The library would also act as a student library for the college.

In April 2015 Carolann Palm-Abramoff, then Library Manager for the North Port Library, organized a group of people to start a new Friends of the Library Group. In May 2015, the organization was initially named “Friends of the Suncoast Library at Toledo Blade.”

FOSSPL's first president Loretta Martin with Judy Renihan
Loretta Martin & Judy Renihan

Monthly meetings began under the guidance of Carolann, Sarabeth Kalajian, then Director of Sarasota County Libraries, and Shannon Staub, former Sarasota County Commissioner, and Founding President, Library Foundation for Sarasota County. A group was formed to apply for non-profit status as a 501(c)(3) corporation. North Port Library provided a meeting room for meetings, and the Friends of North Port Library generously gave support in the loan of startup money necessary to make the application. A local attorney provided pro-bono services.

Requirements were met for incorporation in the State of Florida, for the 501(C)(3) designation from the IRS, and the approval for solicitation of funds from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The first Board of Directors was formed, and a slate of officers was elected as follows: President, Loretta Martin; Vice President, Dianne Patterson; Treasurer, Connie Cunningham; and Secretary, historian, and website administrator, Marcia Williams. They set about the laborious task of developing the by-laws. Other original Board Members were Betty Teramo, Judy Applestein, Betty Brent, Patricia Cruzeiro, and Judy Renihan. The Board set a goal to have $30,000 in the bank for the opening day of the library, which, spectacularly, was reached!

Simultaneously, fundraising including the following events began in earnest by this enthusiastic group:

  • Yard Sale at Cypress Falls
  • Cypress Falls Bookies’ free lunch and art fundraiser
  • Membership Drive beginning in early 2016. Susan Malatesta was the first person to join the newly formed organization. She enrolled as a Founding Member on April 12, 2016. Susan continues to be an active member and super volunteer for Friends’ activities to this day.
  • Pancake Breakfast at Applebee’s Restaurant followed by another one the following year
  • Quarter Auction sponsored by Willis-Smith Construction Co., North Port Beef O’Brady’s, as well as some very generous individual donors
  • Author Luncheon at Heron Creek Country Club featuring author Ben Montgomery, as well as a video depicting FOSSPL’s history thus far that raised $10,000 thanks to a full capacity crowd
  • A cookbook entitled, “Friends Focus on Food,” consisting of 100 recipes donated by volunteers was developed along with Imagine School student-designed note cards to be sold at the Friends’ Used Bookstore
  • Three billboards on Interstate 75 which advertised FOSSPL, donated by a very generous supporter
group of people standing in front of the portrait of Shannon Staub

Early on, FOSSPL joined the North Port Chamber of Commerce. Our members attended chamber functions such as monthly breakfast meetings, ribbon cuttings, and “business after hours” events. This enabled us to promote the library and college before and during construction.

A Groundbreaking Ceremony was held on September 29, 2016, under a large tent with state, county, and city officials in attendance along with business leaders, members of the public, and a contingent of FOSSPL members. The official name of the library was announced and its eponym Shannon Staub was a key speaker. Shannon was rewarded with her namesake, Shannon Staub Library, because of her efforts to support public libraries while a Sarasota County Commissioner, as well as having been instrumental in the founding of the nonprofit Library Foundation of Sarasota County, and its first president. Shannon has continued to be a strong and avid supporter of her library and the Friends. Subsequently, she was named a “Life Member” of the Friends of Shannon Staub Public Library, Inc.

When the official name of the library was announced at the Groundbreaking Ceremony, the organization’s name was changed to Friends of Shannon Staub Public Library, Inc.

a crowd of people attending the grand opening ceremony of the library

One year later, Tuesday, November 7, 2017, at 9 a.m., the official Grand Opening of the NEW Shannon Staub Library, the Suncoast Technical College–North Port, and a new Conference Center was held …and what a celebration it was! A large crowd including city and county dignitaries as well as school and library staff, and the general public eagerly welcomed speakers under the large tent set up in front of the college.

The day’s festivities specifically included dignitaries from the State of Florida, Sarasota County, Sarasota School Board and the City of North Port to celebrate this unique collaboration of city, county, and state governments.

Willis-Smith Construction Company, builders of the facility, hosted the celebration and provided a photo booth, specialty cookies, bottled water, and favors. The Suncoast Technical College Culinary Arts Department provided a beautifully decorated cake and a spectacular array of hors d’oeuvres and desserts.

The Friends of Shannon Staub Public Library greeted visitors and introduced them to our recently-published FOSSPL cookbook and student-designed note cards for sale in the FOSSPL Used Bookstore which also opened with the library. The bookstore committee had worked diligently for weeks prior to opening in collecting donated books and materials to stock the bookstore for this momentous occasion. The bookstore was presented in a fully stocked, professional, and delightful appearance from that day forward.

The North Port Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting and grand opening of the bookstore shortly after the facility opened, featuring several speakers such as Bill Gunnin, Executive Director of the chamber and Liz Napoli, FOSSPL President….and Shannon Staub herself. Because of Shannon’s lifetime dedication and advocacy for public libraries, FOSSPL presented her with a lifetime FOSSPL membership and a stunning framed photograph of her which now graces the foyer of Shannon Staub Library. Since its inception, Friends of Shannon Staub Public Library, Inc. has grown to over 200 members.

FOSSPL has continued to raise funds and support library programs. Successful fundraisers have included often partnering with restaurants for a portion of their sales and with the 5 Below novelty store on three occasions where 5 Below has donated a share of its sales; two Car Shows in conjunction with Florida West Coast Car Club; two spectacular Cahal Dunne concerts; two huge and SUPER book sales; and the crowd-pleasing “Food Truck Fridays.”

marica williams and liz napoli at car show fund raiser
Marcia Williams & Liz Napoli

These activities not only raise funds but draw people to the facility to introduce them to the library and make them aware of all it has to offer. Many first-timers impressed with the facility have commented, “I didn’t know this place existed until now!”

Board members have changed over the years and new members with new ideas and enthusiasm have melded in with the longtime committed and steadily supporting members. Of note is that special recognition should be given to former key officers for their extra efforts in organizing and making the organization an exceptional one: Loretta Martin, former President; Liz Napoli, former President; and Marcia Williams, former Secretary, Historian, and Vice President.

FOSSPL extends immense “thanks” to the many dedicated individuals and organizations that have helped and continue to help make FOSSPL a reality.

Written by Tom and Judy Renihan
December 8, 2022