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Small Library Logo

M A I N   L I B R A R Y
200 West Park Avenue
Tallahassee, FL 32301  
(850) 606-2665
TDD (850) 606-2603

For Branch Locations and Hours, Click Here.

A Brief History of the Library

1950s     1960s     1970s     1980s     1990s     2000s     2010s

The first Friends of the Library group was formed in 1954 by the American Association of University Women. The Friends worked to gain public support for a library. Established by legislative action in May, 1955, the library was developed by citizens and civic groups. The first Leon County free public library opened its doors on March 21, 1956. At the time, Tallahassee was the only state capital in the United States not offering free public library service.

The library's first librarian, M.G. Lamb, was appointed in September of 1955 and served until 1964. Leon County hireThe original bookmobile...d the first library staff person in November of 1955, with the first materials being received from the E.M. Hale, Co. and catalogued in that same year. The library's first home opened in 5,000 square feet of The Columns, one of the oldest remaining antebellum homes in the Leon County area. Library service expanded to include a bookmobile donated by the Junior League of Tallahassee in March of 1956. Visit the Bookmobile Calendar for details on locations and times.

The library quickly outgrew its first home. In 1962 it moved to the old Elks Club building at 127 North Monroe Street, more than doubling its space to 12,000 square feet. From 1964 to 1966, Mary McLendon served as the acting director. In May of 1966, John Pitzer was hired to the director's post and served until 1967. Mary McLendon served once again as acting director from 1967 to 1969. In September of 1969, Verna Nistendirk was named as director and served until 1973.

In October, 1970, Jefferson County became a part of what was to become the Leon, Jefferson, and Wakulla County Public Library System when, in October of 1971, Wakulla County joined. Leon County provided administrative and other services to the two smaller counties, each of which supported the costs of their library services and their share of Leon's administrative costs. The System eventually reverted to a single county service when Wakulla and Jefferson Counties left in 1975 and 1980 respectively. Wakulla and Jefferson established their own libraries and Leon County returned to the name Leon County Public Library.

In 1973, Paul Donovan was named as director and served until 1978. A small branch in the Bond Community opened in September, 1975. This branch was located on Pasco Street in the Smith Williams Service Center.

The main library moved again in May, 1978, to 44,000 square feet in the lower level of the Northwood Mall. This space was offered to the library by Publix at a cost of $1 per square foot.

Lois Fleming was named director in September of that same year and served until 1986. From June of 1986 to July of 1987, Stanley Bustetter, served as the library's director.

In 1986, another group of dedicated citizen volunteers decided that the time had come for the library to have a real home, a home designed and built specifically to house the library. Project B.U.I.L.D. resulted in the ground breaking on March 4, 1989, for a new $8.5 million facility with 88,000 square feet of space next door to the library's original home, The Columns. This facility was designed by Jim Roberson & Associates. The main library is located in the heart of downtown Tallahassee on West Park Avenue. The new main library building was opened in January, 1991. Watching over the creation of a permanent home for the library was Sandra Wilson, who served as director from 1988 to July of 1991. This fully automated library offered an abundance of new services and quickly became a source of pride in the community.

Helen Moeller, was appointed to lead the library in January of 1992.

The library has steadily grown, adding three storefront branches to the system. The Lake Jackson Branch Library opened in August, 1991 at the corner of N. Monroe Street and Fred George Rd., in the Huntington Oaks Shopping Center. Similarly in August of 1994, the Northeast Branch Library opened in the Northampton  Shopping Center at the corner of Thomasville Rd. and Kerry Forest Parkway. In 1997 the Parkway Branch Library, which had originally opened in a stationary  bookmobile, was moved from the parking lot to a storefront in the Cross Creek Square Governor Collinsshopping center at the corner of Apalachee Parkway and Capital Circle SE.

On September 17, 1993, the library was honored by a rededication as the LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library. Governor LeRoy Collins was one of Florida's best known and respected governors and statesmen.

The Library has continued to grow both in size and support from the County Commission and its citizens. During 1997, the County Commission approved the purchase of two parcels of land for the building of permanent branches. The Northeast Branch Library moved from its rented storefront and opened its new building in June, 2000 at 5513 Thomasville Road (just north of Kerry Forest Parkway). On February 13, 2004, the Leon County Board of County Commissioners dedicated this branch in honor of former Leon County Commissioner Bruce J. Host in recognition and appreciation of his tireless advocacy for the enhancement of the quality of life in Leon County. Mr. Hostís steadfast support of the branch library system resulted in the creation of Northeast Branch Library. The Bond Branch, renamed the Dr. B.L. Perry, Jr. Branch (1997), opened its new building on South Adams St. on July 21, 2001. In 1999 and 2000, expansions nearly doubled the size of both the Parkway Branch and Lake Jackson Branch. The Ft. Braden Branch opened in western Leon County on February 25, 2004. Its unique design incorporates 2,200 square feet of a house into the library's structure. 

The 50th Anniversary Celebration in the Park occurred on March 11, 2006. Many people enjoyed the day with us and contributed memories from many years of using the Library.

Helen Moeller retired on April 30, 2010, after 18 years of leadership.  The American Library Association awarded her the Melvil Dewey Medal for Distinguished Service in 1999 and she was the President of The Florida Library Association in 1995.

Cay Hohmeister was appointed Director May 1, 2010. She has worked at the Library in Extension and Public Services, and at the State Library of Florida.

In 2009-2010, as part of a local economic stimulus effort and to work toward completing plans for expansion of the library system, the Leon County Board of County Commissioners approved construction projects to expand two of the branch libraries.

On November 11, 2010, the ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for a 3,000 square-foot expansion of the Dr. B. L. Perry, Jr., Branch Library [pictured left]. Most of the space is for 48 public-access computer stations, and there is a teen reading area at one end and a newspaper and magazine area at the other. The Northeast Branch building [pictured above] was expanded by 5,000 square feet, adding space for separate areas for children, teens and adult non-fiction as well as additional reading space and public-access computer stations. The ribbon-cutting for this expansion was held on December 16, 2010.

The construction of two other branches was completed in 2011. Woodville residents now enjoy a branch library. Contained within a 2,000 square-foot addition to the Woodville Community Center, the grand opening took place October 1, 2011.  A new 12,000 square-foot Eastside Branch Library, located on Pedrick Pond Park, replaced the Parkway Branch. The grand opening for this Spanish-mission style building was held November 3, 2011.

Ground-breaking for the renovation of the Lake Jackson Branch Library was held November 9, 2011.  Renovation on a specially designed 12,000 square-foot space for the branch library is complete, and the previous library facility will become a newly renovated Leon County Community Center.  The entire Huntington Oaks has been purchased by Leon County and the shopping center facade and the parking lot will be renovated as part of this project.  The grand opening of the new Lake Jackson Branch Library was held on August 21, 2012.


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