North Miami Public Library - History

The Biscayne Park Woman's Club established a Library in the City Hall of the town of North Miami in 1932. E. May Avil, who served 37 years as City Clerk for North Miami, oversaw the Library's operation.

Closed during World War II, the North Miami Community Library reopened in September 1945 in larger quarters at City Hall, again under the supervision of E. May Avil. Funding came largely from donations and membership fees.

In 1948, the Biscayne Park Woman's Club turned the Library over to the town of North Miami. A referendum, held in 1949, established a free Public Library under provisions of the Florida Statutes, setting up a Library Fund and a Library board to administer the operation. Twin sisters, Mrs. Edla Lunden and Mrs. Alma Anderson, were appointed as Librarian and Assistant Librarian, respectively.

In 1952, the Town Council deeded the present site to the Library Board. A $54,000 air-conditioned building was constructed in 1953. With equipment and furnishings the total investment was $70,000.

The first professional librarian, Miss Phyllis Gray, served from 1955-1959 after the twins retired. Mrs. Julia Wanner succeeded Miss Gray.

The Library grew steadily under Mrs. Wanner's guidance both in size and service. Primary among her accomplishments was the completion in 1964 of an addition which doubled the size of the 1953 building. A branch was operated on the City's Westside from 1957-1967.

In 1970 the City Council voted unanimously to rename the Library as the E. May Avil North Miami Public Library.

Upon Mrs. Wanner's retirement in 1978, Mrs. Gloria Zavish was promoted from Assistant Director to Director. Services and programs expanded, and again the Library doubled in size with the construction and furnishing of a $1.3 million addition completed in 1991.

In 1994 the City appropriated funds for retrospective conversion, the first phase of the Library's automation project. In subsequent years, financial support for this particular effort continued, culminating in a request for proposals for an integrated on-line Library system in July 1997. In August 1997, a grant was secured from the State Library to provide Internet access for the public.

A Community Development Block Grant was secured in 1995 to purchase equipment which translates written materials into either speech or Braille. More CDBG money became available in 1997 allowing the Library to furnish and equip a Lifelong Learning Center wherein patrons may pursue such personal goals as a GED (General Equivalency Diploma), English as a Second Language etc.

In 1999, a Bill and Melinda Gates Library Initiative Grant provided the Library with 6 computer workstations, a content server and laser printer to enhance our patron Internet and computer access capabilities.

Mrs. Zavish retired February 1st, 2002. Ms. Ilene Zaleski was appointed Library Director in February, 2002. Ms. Zaleski has since married and is now Mrs. Ilene Z. Vegazo.

Late in 2002, the City of North Miami signed an agreement with Preserve Partners, Ltd. to develop the Munisport Landfill Site. As one of the Off-Site improvements, the developer agreed to give $10 million to North Miami Public Library for expansion.

In 2003, the Florida Legislature revised the law to allow independent municipal libraries to participate in the State Aid to Libraries Program. North Miami Public Library received its first State Aid appropriation in January 2004.

Reciprocal Borrowing became a reality in Miami-Dade County in Fall 2003 when Directors of the Miami-Dade Public Library System, Hialeah Public Library, North Miami Beach Public Library and North Miami Public Library signed an agreement allowing residents of their respective service areas to get free library cards and borrow materials from any of the participating libraries.

In Summer 2004, the State Library awarded North Miami Public Library a $500,000 Public Library Construction Grant.

Mrs. Vegazo retired February 10, 2006

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City of North Miami | 776 NE 125 Street | North Miami | Florida 33161 | 305.893.6511