Manatee County Public Library System named Library of the Year by Florida Library Association

  • Mar 3, 2016

MANATEE COUNTY, FL (March 3, 2016) – Manatee County Public Library System has been named Library of the Year by the Florida Library Association (FLA), a recognition of the system’s outstanding service to the community. It was the most prestigious award on a day of many awards for the Library System.

850,000 patrons visited Manatee County Public Library System last year.
850,000 patrons visited Manatee County Public Library System last year.

In addition to being Library of the Year, Manatee also received state recognition for its annual Teen Recycled Fashion Show, a lifetime achievement award for a 37-year employee and special recognition for one of the volunteers who organized last year’s “An Evening with Stephen King.”


Ava Ehde, Library Services Manager, said the awards are a tribute to the Library team’s ongoing efforts to reach back to Andrew Carnegie's concept of a thriving community center of learning, creativity and collaboration.  Carnegie, who created and funded national public libraries, based his model on a cultural civic center where the common man could get an education and learn about the world.

“We are honored to be the recipient of each of these awards,” said Library Services Manager Ava Ehde. “Andrew Carnegie believed that in America, anyone with access to books and the desire to learn could educate himself or herself and be successful. We have worked very diligently to reinvent and reenergize our libraries to meet the needs of life-long learners by creating new roles in the community and bringing a wider range of services,” said Ehde.


In addition to the Library of the Year award, Manatee received the following:

·         Manatee Libraries Operations Manager Kevin Beach received the Lifetime Achievement Award which recognizes a long, distinguished record of professional achievements and accomplishments. Beach has been with Manatee County Library System for 37 years, and is the son of State Librarian Cecil Beach. “Kevin has been an amazing part of the team for all these years and he brings wisdom and calm and a truly unassuming leadership style to our librarians,” Ehde said.

·        Manatee’s annual Teen Recycled Fashion Show won FLA’s Betty Davis Miller Youth Services Award, which recognizes innovative or outstanding youth programs. Now in its third year, the event encourages teenagers to incorporate household recycling, creative design and collaboration and present their fashions on the runway. This year’s Teen Recycled Fashion Show takes place Saturday, April 16, from 1-3 p.m. at Central Library. “We’re so proud of our library team that has come up with creative ways to respond to community needs,” Edhe said.

·         FLA’s Friends, Foundations and Boards Outstanding Member Award went to Rocky Bluff Friends President Doris Pope. Last year Pope served as the coordinating chair for the Library Foundation of the Evening with Stephen King, which raised over $100,000 in supplemental funding for the Manatee Library System.

“Pope not only serves her community with excellence through fundraising and awareness of the offerings of the Rocky Bluff Library, but she also has organized highly successful author events and book sales,” said Ehde. Pope is a volunteer advocate for the library who annually contributes many hours to the Rocky Bluff Library each year.

Manatee County Public Library System is a division of Manatee County Neighborhood Services.


“What an outstanding day for Ava, Kevin and all of our library team,” said Neighborhood Services Director Cheri Coryea. “We really owe a thank you to the Board of County Commissioners for their investment in the renovations to Central Library and for making electronic resources a priority for the community.”


Ehde said Manatee County Public Libraries continually finds important new ways of serving the community based upon customer suggestions and survey responses.  Referring to libraries as equalizers, Ehde said they provide needed services and materials, such as fee-free Internet service and access to bestsellers and beyond, to those who cannot afford them.

Ehde named job seekers as a vital group in need of the library, as nearly all employment applications are no longer in paper and available only online.  She also cited those needing to complete social service applications.

“We fill the technology gap, teaching the community members who struggle with computers in general or with their new tablets, eReaders, smart phones, or laptops,” said Ehde.

Computer usage among the public neared 400,000 this past year. The library’s streaming resources, which include eBook, eAudio and movies, saw a 42 percent increase in customer usage over the past year. Manatee County Public Library System experienced a 24 percent increase in monthly customers since 2010 and a 130 percent increase in attendance at events over the past 10 years.

According to Ehde, in addition to its traditional role of connecting users with information and serving as a literacy provider for the youngest in our communities for school and families with the skills they need to be a child’s first teacher, Manatee Libraries has evolved as a destination for gathering the community for events to enrich their lives with education and culture. This includes Star Wars Reads Day, job fairs, business expos, and Creative Aging series in which mature audiences can develop their talents while building new friendships.

This is the second time in three years Manatee Libraries won the Betty Davis Miller Youth Services Award. In 2013, the system was recognized for the annual Mana-Con Comics Convention, a free and inventive teen comic convention held in October.


“It has been a whirlwind of exciting events taking place throughout our six libraries. We’ve had record-breaking attendance at all of our bigger annual events, such as Mana-Con, the Teen Recycled Fashion Show and Blues in the Library, along with consistently big crowds at our regular programming, such as our Lunch, Listen & Learn series and Creative Aging programs,” said Ehde. “It’s an exciting time to be a part of the libraries, and I would invite everyone to come checkout our award-winning library system soon!”


For more information, call Central Library at (941) 748-5555, ext. 6307. For more information on Manatee County Public Library System, visit online at and follow them on Facebook at and at

For more information on Manatee County Government, visit online at or call (941) 748-4501. You can also follow us on Facebook at and on Twitter, @ManateeGov.