Andrew Carnegie left quite a legacy in Maine: 18 libraries in towns that previously had none. Vinalhaven was one of those lucky communities, and now, nearly 100 years after it was built, the Vinalhaven Public Library is hoping for a makeover. On June 26, the Friends of the Library Centennial Committee unveiled plans for an addition to the historic building.
Librarian Betsy Bates can rattle off a long list of the Library’s needs at the drop of a hat. According to Bates, addition plans call for separate areas for fiction, nonfiction and large print books as well as new acquisitions, audio books and videos. Many of these are currently stacked on shelves two deep to accommodate the library’s extensive collection of over 20,000 books and 2,000 videos and audio books. The plans also include an expanded children’s area, where books now are shelved up to seven feet high, well above a child’s reach. “The kids’ section is really important,” said Bates, “it wasn’t just a luxury.” The library expansion also calls for a separate young adult section, which currently overlaps with children’s books. “I really want to improve the young adult section because it’s woeful now,” Bates pointed out. “We will also have a teen area. I think it’s important because they need that,” she said.
The new addition will also include a meeting room, reading space, expanded work space for the librarians and a bathroom, which is currently lacking in the Library as well.
Barba & Wheelock, of Portland, an architectural firm specializing in historic preservation, was hired to create plans for the new addition. The Library is on the National Register of Historic Places, but because the Library Centennial Committee is not accepting federal funding for this project, it did not have to adhere to strict rules regarding the alteration of such places. Regardless, Barba & Wheelock has extensive experience with small libraries and historically sensitive buildings, and has created a plan for an addition that looks like part of the original building, yet will nearly double its size.
Fundraising for the library addition has only begun, as the committee didn’t get the required permission from the town until after the June 11 annual Town Meeting. According to June MacDonald, Friends of the Library Co-Chair, the committee is still waiting for a final figure on the cost of the addition. However, it has already received an anonymous $50,000 challenge gift, and is researching corporate and foundation grant opportunities. Because Vinalhaven’s taxes are increasing due to the new school, new sewer system and property revaluation, the committee has pledged not to seek funding from the town. If you would like to help the Library Centennial Committee raise funds for the Vinalhaven Public Library addition, email the Friends of the Library at FOL@foxislands.net.