GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Friends of the Green Cove Springs Library are bringing the outside in during the second phase of a project to remodel the children’s section of the library.
Jacksonville muralist Anthony Rooney, who installed three large panels inside the children’s section earlier this year, returned to the library Tuesday morning to install the first half of the second phase of murals. Four panels will now be visible outside the doors to the left of the entrance, and a continuation of the new mural is expected to be installed by Rooney within the next few months.
The new mural came in at $5,000 total, the same price as the first, and the Friends have started fundraising in hopes of recouping funds spent by the Friends group on their most recent contribution to the library.
“This is something we’ve needed for a long time,” said Jennifer Parker, library branch manager. “The kids are gonna’ lose their minds when they see it!”
Parker said that in the few months since the first mural was installed, there has been a noticeable change in staff demeanor.
“For those of us that have to be there every day, it’s a joy to walk in that room and see changes,” Parker said. “It’s had a positive effect on staff.”
The current children’s section was originally the library’s meeting room; because of this and the fact that the library was built in shades of 1960’s-era beige, the room never really felt like a kid’s room at a library. They needed a separate space for children’s activities, but the room’s bulletin boards and neutral-colored block walls left Parker and her staff wanting more. That is when the library’s Friends organization stepped in to provide funding for a multi-phase project.
“The room was never designed to be a children’s room, but also has to be multipurpose as it is the only place large enough to host an event,” said Friends member Vicki Crisp. “So, we wanted something that was more than just primary colors, it had to be appealing to everyone.”
The Friends contacted an interior designer who turned them onto Rooney, a 30-year-old muralist with a penchant for color-filled, large-scale work as well as an innate appreciation for libraries, which comes as a bonus.
Rooney’s mother works as a librarian in the Jacksonville Public Library system, and Rooney actually teaches drawing classes, advertised as Art with Anthony, for youth patrons at various libraries throughout Duval County.
“It’s really just a weird coincidence,” Rooney said as he worked Tuesday morning.
Rooney said he has always worked on large projects, but didn’t get into mural work until being hired by artist Joe Puskas who does murals for Firehouse Subs restaurants.
“I always liked to work large and be a little loose with it,” Rooney said. “I always want to get more into the space of my canvas.”
The first phase of Rooney’s murals were dedicated in August to the memory and service of former children’s librarian Michelle Kreitzer. The murals allow children to imagine what it would look like if they were sitting inside the spring at Historic Spring Park looking out into the park.
The Friends group, and Parker, have become enamored with the young artist’s attention to detail and creativity and look to continue working with him should any additional mural projects present themselves.
After the group meets its fundraising goal for this project they will look to future library improvements. The next goal is to get more comfortable furniture for their teen section, which has growing numbers as Parker’s teen advisory group has grown to 17 members who have become very active in the library. The teen group has started to plan events that have been drawing in more and more young patrons.
“It’s taken time to grow this group,” Parker said. “I started three years ago with just three kids.”
Parker has seen participation skyrocket for their life skills classes where they teach teens how to be good citizens, how to make a budget and things like car ownership and doing taxes by hand. Other ideas such as after hours listening parties and other teen-organized events have also come from Parker’s focus on providing a fun space for teens to feel welcome and appreciated.
“It’s been so rewarding working with these kids, and they’ve given me a lot of really good ideas,” Parker said.
As the library looks to continue making improvements, the Friends group is seeking help from members of the community who are willing to support their initiatives to provide places for the youth of Green Cove Springs at the community library.
“For these projects, we have really gone over and above what we already do,” Crisp said. “But this library was definitely not [initially] designed with children in mind.”
They are accepting donations through the library’s front desk via envelopes that are available there, with checks payable to “Friends of the Green Cove Springs Library.” The group is also selling raffle tickets at $5 each or 3 for $10 which will enter buyers into a drawing for a Harry Potter-themed quilt that was created by members of the Friends.
Tickets are available through the library as well, but will also be sold on Dec. 2 during the Green Cove Springs Christmas on Walnut event, as well as Market in the Park on Dec. 16. The drawing for the winner will take place Dec. 18.