The Fort Myers Beach Library has undergone several significant changes since the tragic passing of its former Director, Dr. Leroy Hommerding, this past January. One is the creation of a new Assistant Director position that the Library Board of Directors recently filled with longtime employee John Lukow.
“My wife, Michelle, is a 1st grade teacher with Lee County Public Schools,” Lukow said. “We have three sons – Noah, Ethan and Caleb – evenly split between high school, middle school, and elementary school! I am originally from Charleston, South Carolina, and though my family moved around a bit when I was younger, due to my Dad’s job, we ended up in Cape Coral in 1980 and my own family remains there to this day. I am a graduate of Cape Coral High School, and attained by Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and my Master’s in Library Science from Florida State University, the latter in 1994.”
Immediately upon graduating from FSU, Lukow began work at the Fort Myers Beach Library. “I have been here now for 25 years, mostly as the Catalog Librarian, and that is a behind-the-scenes job,” he joked, “so I didn’t get out in front very much! I process collections into the computer, along with the Processing Clerk, to make sure everything shows up all right, as well as assisting with the computer system and helping with our bookkeeping, along with other assorted duties.”
Now that he is Assistant Director, he works closely with Cletus Poser, who became Interim Director the week of Dr. Hommerding’s passing and permanent Director in late March. “I now handle the budget, am more involved with book ordering, and interact with the total staff more than ever, “ Lukow said. “Working on the new Budget for the upcoming Fiscal Year was particularly interesting, learning in detail all the projects we fund, those where we can decrease our allocations, and information about new areas where maybe we should allocate resources, especially for disaster contingencies and future planning. This causes me to split my time between my old and new duties, so we are looking to hire someone to take some of these things off my shoulders.”
The new Assistant Directorship position related directly to Dr. Hommerding’s loss. “He did pretty much everything,” Lukow marveled. “When the Board promoted Cletus, everyone realized we all needed to help share the load with him, so the Board created the Assistant Director position and offered it to me, based on my tenure and knowledge about the inner workings of the library. It was an honor I truly did not expect, but I immediately accepted.”
Contrary to community rumors, however, Lukow said he is not in the pipeline to become the next Director whenever Poser concludes his tenure. “There have been no promises or anything like that made to me,” Lukow related, “so as far as I know, I am not part of any succession plan, but should the opportunity avail itself in the future, I would be receptive, as this is a great library and Fort Myers Beach is a great community. I learn so much from Cletus, as he is a wonderful resource, and perhaps his strongest attribute is he is always there to listen, then provide just the right answer. There is so much experience on our Library Board, so I really enjoy those interactions. This is true as well of our tremendous staff who are so knowledgeable about so many things, and I especially marvel at how they work with and assist our library patrons, and the smiles they bring to our visitors’ faces are an inspiration to me, and those reactions tell me we are doing a great job.”
With a relatively new Director and Assistant Director, is this a new era for the Fort Myers Beach Library? “We are still evaluating how things work and evolve,” Lukow explained. “What is a certainty is the Fort Myers Beach community absolutely loves the Beach Library and as an institution, we are already well thought of, so you do not want to make any drastic changes just for the sake of change, particularly in areas that work well, where no change is necessary. Because we can analyze our operation from this position of strength, we can take our time to see how and where we can improve, to keep an eye out for what the community needs from us that we do not currently provide.”
One area where Lukow wants to expand his knowledge is the “Heart Of The Island” movement. “I am just now getting up to speed with this, as the Library Board sees it as a priority and assigned Board Secretary Jan Fleming to represent us at their meetings. From the little I know, it sounds like a great concept, to help to brand this region of the island, as when everyone works together to accomplish good things, we all win.”
With Dr. Hommerding’s death still so recent, it is impossible to enter the Beach Library without thinking of him, and this is especially true for Lukow and his coworkers. “He was ‘The Man,’” John stated with visible emotion. “It seemed like he could do everything, whether it was running the Library, his volunteer work with the Kiwanis or helping with the Estero Island Historic Society – he somehow had enough time for everyone; he was really something to see in action! Coming into the Library is still tough because Dr. Hommerding’s mark is everywhere – he was such a big presence! As a staff, we are holding up well because we rally around each other. I also can’t say enough about the support we receive from the beach community, as that continues to this day and definitely helps us during the down times. Dr. Hommerding will never truly go away and will always be a part of us.”
As for what the Beach Library means to him, “it is kind-of a second home! This my only professional job, so I have seen it grow and expand, and that is a very comforting feeling for me. Dr. Hommerding left us a wonderful legacy, and we work hard every day to keep it up to his standards. This is why I find the ‘Heart Of The Island’ concept so intriguing – because, to me, the Library truly is the heart of the Fort Myers Beach community. There is something here for everyone, whether you are a fulltime resident, occasional island visitor and everyone in-between. I know sometimes people come into the Library having a bad day, but after doing reading or research, working on one of the jigsaw puzzles or attending a Community Room program, I never see anyone leave in a bad mood! We are truly blessed to have such a wonderful library to call home!”
The Fort Myers Beach Library is at 2755 Estero Boulevard, with hours Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and closed Sundays and holidays, including Labor Day. For information, see www.fmb.lib.fl.us or call 239-765-8162.