Braden River Library expansion offers new opportunities in east Bradenton | East County

With its 4,250-square-foot expansion, the Braden River Library has significantly added to the opportunities it offers the community.

Included in the expansion are Makerspace, three study rooms and a meeting room. The library’s additions have been built so people could create their own projects, have space to gather with others, or even just find a quiet place to study.

“It’s been wonderful,” said Cathy Laird, the branch supervisor for the Braden River Library. “We’ve gotten so many happy customers who come in and say how beautiful (the expansion) is.” 

The Makerspace, which is called Studio 70, has three drop-in times each week for projects.

On Jan. 15, for example, more than 40 people of all ages used the space for various reasons.

“When we first started having drop-in programs, we’d get a couple of people, maybe one family, and those numbers are climbing as people become aware that the opportunity is there,” Laird said. 

Bradenton’s Avianna Owens was able to use the Cricut machine to make a sticker inspired from Disney’s “Encanto” during an all-ages drop-in period. 

Laird said some of the patrons are so impressed they have come back multiple times to Studio 70.

For example, one dad and his son came into Studio 70 to use the 3D printer for a school project because they didn’t have a 3D printer at home. A woman came to use the 3D printer to make a pair of doll shoes for her collection of Barbie-type dolls. Another woman made a cake top using the 3D printer.

Read more: Manatee County libraries shift to a focus on virtual programming.

The four study rooms and additional meeting room are constantly being used and allow the library to host more programs and organizations at the same time.  

The 40 Carrots group uses a meeting room every Friday morning. An AARP tax aide wants to come to the library the same day to provide tax assistance. In the past, the two would conflict but now the group and tax aide can use the library at the same time. 

Laird said the library still is working to get back to pre-COVID numbers for visitors. Before the pandemic began, the library had between 700 and 800 visitors per day. Now the library has about 400 visitors per day. 

Braden River Library expansion offers new opportunities in east Bradenton | East County

Rachel Scharbo, a library assistant, shows off one of the projects she made in Studio 70.

With the expansion and the new programs the library is offering, Laird is confident the library will see more visitors and program participants in the near future.

Laird said the library has plenty to offer children, including its story times, but she said the library needs to add more adult programming.

Among the planned additions include a ukulele class, a “What’s it Worth” program to evaluate the worth of antiques, and a “Life in the Circus” program. The library has worked with community organizations to host a knitting group. 

With its new space, the library also offers more opportunities to learn about coding, robotics, sewing, crochet and more. 

Laird wants to start a yoga and watercolor programs with the possibility of an art show at the end of the series of classes. 

“They’re opportunities to not only learn a new skill but to make new friends,” Laird said. 

Laird said the new two-story, 50-000-square-foot library being built in Lakewood Ranch will be a welcome addition to the county’s library system. 

“We’ve always been too small for the area we serve,” Laird said. “We’re looking forward to having that ease some of the load off this branch because this is the little engine that could. We’re one of the larger branches, but even so, we’re not near large enough capacity to handle the volume that’s needed for that entire (East County) area.”

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