Periodically “The Island Sand Paper” asks a community leader 6 Questions to offer our readers an in-depth look at a public institution. This edition features Cletus Poser, who recently became the Director of the Fort Myers Beach Public Library, following the recent tragic passing of his predecessor, Dr. Leroy Hommerding. Mr. Poser has been with the FMB Public Library as a Reference Librarian since August 2002; became Interim Director on January 22 of this year, and was named the permanent Library Director by the Library Board on March 26. The FMB Public Library is at 2755 Estero Boulevard; for information, see www.fmb.lib.fl.us or call 239-765-8162.
Q1: When you initially took over as the FMB Library Director, you intended to do so on an interim basis, with no interest in the fulltime position. What changed your mind?
The Saturday prior to my fulltime appointment, former Library Board member Mark LaFave, who is a longtime employee with the Town of Fort Myers Beach, came to speak to me, and he related that in his time with the Town, he underwent 11 administrative changes of various sorts, and that while sometimes change is good, too many can be a negative, and that convinced me that, internally for the FMB Library, perhaps it would be best if I stayed on, so I changed my mind. In doing so, this was the smoothest possible transition for my coworkers, because we all underwent a traumatic event with the way Dr. Hommerding passed.
The more I thought about it, the more sense it made to me, and I had already been sitting in this office for about two months, so I said to myself, ‘OK, challenges are good,’ as this position makes me challenge my limitations, and I had a great deal of support, both within the building and from the community. Some things were a concern to me, like managing the calendar and writing the community newspaper articles, but others here, like Liz and Maria, stepped up to take those off my plate, so everything came together to persuade me that this was the right thing for me to do, not only for myself but for everyone else.
Q2: Several of your immediate neighborhood institutions and businesses as well as the Town government are leading the way to establish the “Heart Of The Island” brand as the community’s newest hot spot. What do you know about the HOTI movement and what role do you see in it for the FMB Public Library?
Let me be honest up front and say I am not as familiar with “Heart Of The Island” as perhaps I should be. The focus of Times Square is what everyone acknowledges as the start of our tourism corridor, and I know the idea is to bring that down to this portion of the island, to take advantage of not only the Library but the Bay Oaks Recreational Center, Community Pool and Beach Elementary School, so those are all good destinations as strong starting points to develop something special. I look forward to learning more about this concept.
Q3: You took over the FMB Public Library Directorship under the most difficult of circumstances. From where did you find that inner strength?
My back story is my back! Until recently, I suffered from severe back pain, including one week when I could barely get out of bed, so I resolved to do something about it, as I wanted to be more helpful with our seasonal Book Sales and moving all those boxes is heavy! I enrolled in a program called “Alexander Technique,” named after its creator, Frederick Alexander, that dancers use to strengthen their core muscles. It is more than that, however, as it also emphasizes mental training techniques.
With “Alexander Technique,” I am a completely different person. One of its mantras is ‘the words Mistake & Failure are excellent opportunities to learn,’ and I added ‘Loss, Tragedy, Wrong & Fear’ because to me those are also excellent opportunities for learning. Now, not only are my back issues mostly gone, but I feel so good right now, I can accomplish a lot.
One other aspect that allowed me the confidence to do this is Dr. Hommerding himself. Just prior to his death, he banged his foot so bad that it caused him to limp, and he began thinking about retirement, so that was a signal that change was most likely imminent, as he looked forward to retirement. This combination of things helped prepare me, to do things differently in life, rather than just relying on my usual approach.
Q4: At some point, there will be a Library memorial to Dr. Hommerding. What do you personally favor and why?
Some people want to rename the building after Dr. Hommerding but that was never a consideration for me because, knowing him as I did, that would never be something that would interest him. We are proceeding with the butterfly garden, near the parking garage, and the bench that local AMI students recently built and dedicated to him will go there. This is appropriate because this was something he had already begun to research, complete with Florida native landscaping, because he had such an eye for those details. We will complement the butterfly garden with photographs and quotes, with funds coming from those who were thoughtful enough to make memorial contributions, along with gifts from the Hommerding Family, so I think that this will be an appropriate memorial.
Q5: Every person eventually leaves their own mark. What will remain the same with the FMB Library during your tenure, and what changes do you foresee?
People make their own marks in different ways. I do not plan any major changes to the way we operate the Library, as it already operates so well. As Director, however, I must recognize there were things that Dr. Hommerding did so well – and he did so many things so well – that are not strong suits of mine, so I assign more responsibilities to my coworkers, so they can better display their talents and build their own achievements, to become a better and stronger team.
Q6: What makes the FMB Public Library so special, and what is the best part about being its Director?
Monday, when the AMI students were to deliver the memorial bench, an NBC-2 television crew arrived early, so I asked if they wanted a tour, and I am not accustomed to doing that. They were so impressed with the Children’s Area and 2nd floor displays and the 3rd floor art exhibit and all the artwork and Florida history throughout the building, and especially the unique bookends that Dr. Hommerding personally selected, and said these are things you do not find in most Libraries, and this is true, because Dr. Hommerding had such a unique vision for this Library! Everywhere you look, you see his touch!
Those are things I need to hear, as they not only make me appreciate Dr. Hommerding even more, but to appreciate the chair in which I now sit. Today, I am a different person, more aware of all the good things around me, and I feel good about being the Director of the Fort Myers Beach Public Library!
By Gary Mooney