Library Week: An Evening of Firsts

A guardian of the library
A guardian of the library

Last night was an evening of firsts at the Charles M. Bailey Public Library. It was the first time the newly expanded library was open to the public. It was the first time the new events room was used, and it was the first time for the new blue folding chairs, quite an improvement over the old wooden ones. It was the first time our new town manager—Peter Nielsen—came to an event. (He’s promised to come to all of them.) Firsts, firsts, firsts.

What a wonderful feeling to walk through this library and admire the wood, the layout, even the light. One man said, “Bravo, bravo!” as he wandered through the stacks in the adult section. After all the hard work—and, yes, the setbacks and the criticisms—how good it was to hear this.

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Shane at the grand new circulation desk in the adult section

 

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The teen section

The children’s section, once housed in the basement, is now on the first floor, and simply put, it is a magical place. I know. Magical is a word that can be overused, but the children’s area is now so delightful that no other word will do. It has everything that children and the young at heart will love—large stuffed animals, giant planes, a play area, a reading nook, and lots and lots of books. Lucky Winthrop children!

A place to play
A place to play
A cozy nook
A cozy nook
A giant plane
A giant plane

The first event of last night was a concert by the Winthrop Handbell Ringers. The bells’ tinkling, ethereal notes seemed like a welcome and a benediction.

The Winthrop Handbell Ringers
The Winthrop Handbell Ringers

After the concert, Earle Shettleworth, the state historian, spoke about the history of the Blaine House, the governor’s mansion in Augusta. Shettleworth was articulate, informative, and funny. He spoke for an hour, but I could have listened to him for even longer.  Along with his talk, there was a media presentation—what would have once been called a slide show—of stills about the Blaine House and its occupants through the years. Best of all, Shettleworth was quick to name the various dogs in the photos, and he apologized when he didn’t know a dog’s name. He also praised the design of the new addition and noted how well it tied in with the original building. (Thank you, thank you, Phil Locashio, architect extraordinaire!)

Earle Shettleworth
Earle Shettleworth

What an auspicious way to begin the second hundred years in our newly expanded library.

Another guardian of the library
Another guardian of the library

 

Spring Departs Lickety-Split

Today I’m going to take a break from gushing about our beautiful library and its new addition. But never fear! There will be several posts this week about the goings on at Bailey Public Library.

Instead, I am focusing on the astonishing speed in which spring turns to summer in Maine. And I have the pictures to prove it. Three weeks ago—on May 3—our friends John and Beth came over for brunch. We happened to hit a sweet spot where the day was sunny and warm but the black flies had yet to rear their ugly little heads. After the meal was over, we had blueberry cake and tea and coffee on the patio.

The sun was warm on our faces. The birds fluttered from the trees to the bird feeders, and this is what the trees looked like on May 3:

A little chickadee

A scant three weeks have passed, and this is what the trees look like now. The leaves are nearly full grown, and summer is tapping on our shoulders.

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Every year, I am flabbergasted by how spring rushes headlong to summer. In Maine the change happens so fast it almost seems that if you stood quietly and watched for several hours, then you could actually see the leaves and the plants growing.

Let’s just say that winter does not depart with the same haste. And neither does summer nor fall. Instead, it is spring, spring, spring—the wayward child—that grows up and leaves so fast. But what a beautiful child she is, and how we love her while she is here.

As a Maine native I wonder, does spring pass as quickly in other places where winter is not as long? If so, then perhaps spring knows that she needs to hurry to make way for sister summer. If not, then perhaps it is just the nature of spring to rush and hurry.

When I started this post, I did not intend to personify spring and summer, but I have a fanciful mind that turns easily to such things. Besides, when you live on a wooded road in Maine, you are very much aware of the seasons and all that they bring—the beauty, the joy, and, yes, the hardships. It’s not much of a stretch to think of each season as a real presence and, at times, a force to be reckoned with.

At any rate, spring is nearly gone. Farewell, farewell, you lovely season.

Library Week: Our Beautiful Expanded Library

This week begins the celebration of the expanded Charles M. Bailey Public Library, with June 1 being the official opening day. For the next few days, there will be special events to mark this grand occasion.

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The expanded library

This project was spearheaded by the library trustees, who in turn worked with a terrific group of people on a campaign team. This is our gift to the town. Collectively, we will have raised over one million dollars for this project, and all the money will be coming from grants and donations. (The town did generously allow us to borrow $300,000 as part of a larger municipal bond.)

All the construction work was done by local people, even the bookshelves and the circulation desk. As a result much of the money stayed right in Winthrop. Now that’s what I call an economic stimulus!

Not too bad for a town of 6,000. Not bad at all.

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The original Bailey Library
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The addition

Gardening and Library and Dogs. Oh, My!

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The patio is ready for Memorial Day. Now, if only those dratted black flies would go away.

The end of May is just around the corner, and what a busy time it is for the residents of the little house in the big woods. Gardening and planting have reached a fever pitch, and as I am someone who does not like to hurry, that along with writing and other household chores would be plenty to keep my days full.

However, next week our library will be having all sorts of events to celebrate the grand opening of the new addition—a speaker on Tuesday; on Wednesday a chainsaw carving of an owl for the children’s room; and on Friday a true open house where a “book” cake will be served.

To add to the jolly chaos, we will be babysitting our granddogs, Holly and Somara. I am praying for good weather so that the dogs can spend much of the day outside in the backyard.

In addition, we’re having friends over for a barbecue on Sunday, to celebrate Memorial Day. I’ll be making the first potato salad of the season, and we’ll be having the first grilled chicken, too. And grilled bread, of course.

Next week on the blog, I might focus more on images than words. Naturally, I’ll want to write a little something about the library’s grand opening. Just a little something.

And in honor of Memorial Day, as I work in the yard, I’ll remember family and friends who have passed. They are missed and are certainly not forgotten.

 

A New Podium for Charles M. Bailey Public Library

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Mary Jane Auns, Trustee Chair, and Richard Fortin, Library Director, with the beautiful new podium made by Mario Meucci

As my grandmother might have put it, this morning I had to get up before breakfast to be at Winthrop High School by 8:30 a.m. I am a night owl, and while I’m usually up by 8:00 a.m., I’m not usually showered, dressed, and ready to go. However, it was well worth the hustle to be at the high school so early. Mario Meucci, a student in Todd MacArthur’s Furniture Construction Class, presented to the Bailey Library a podium that he built.

The podium was presented in a morning assembly in front of the students. Meucci spoke simply yet eloquently about how the podium was made of birch, just as there are birches at Norcross point, a town park by Maranacook Lake. Richard Fortin, the library’s director, thanked Meucci and noted how his gift would still be used in the library a hundred years from now.

How many students can say this about their work? This sense of doing something that will benefit the town well into the future is a subject I’ve discussed in previous posts about the library’s addition. As I’ve written before, most everyday people don’t have the opportunity to work on projects that will be around for over a hundred years. For me, as a volunteer, it has been very moving to be part of such a project, and it moves me even more to think of how this young man has made something that will ripple forward a hundred years. Speakers and authors not even born yet will be using that podium.

And what a beauty it is! Sleek, polished, and gleaming, it has the library’s logo on the front. It will go into the library’s new event room, which will be big enough to hold around 125 people. This birch podium will fit right in with all the wood furniture and shelves the trustees have purchased for the library.

Next week, there will be events and an open house to celebrate the new addition and the refurbishing of the original library.  (The library will be officially opening on June 1.) I’ve had ample opportunity to see the construction in progress and the finished results. Most patrons, however, have not had this chance, and next week will be the first time they will see the fruit of all the hard work—the constant fund raising, the planning, the revisions—that has  gone into this library project.

I hope they will be as thrilled as I am.

And thank you, thank you, Mario Meucci for the lovely new podium. It will be used for the first time on Tuesday, May 26 when Earle Shettleworth, the state historian, gives a talk.

Clif and I will be there.

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Mario Meucci, the student who built the podium; Mary Jane Auns; Richard Fortin; and Keith Morin, high school principal

 

 

A Library Budget Cut?

Bailey Library, before the addition
Bailey Library, before the addition

Last night  in Winthrop, there was a town council meeting where our library’s budget was discussed. (Full disclosure: I am a trustee.) With the new addition, the library has nearly tripled in size, and we were asking for a $25,000 increase over last year’s library budget. This is right on par with what the architect suggested would be needed for the library after the addition was built, and the councilors knew this before they approved the project. (The library requested a total of two hundred eighty-three thousand dollars out of a seventeen million dollar town budget.)

First the bad news: The town council recommended a $10,000 increase rather than a $25,000 increase, which will make what is a tight library budget even tighter.  The trustees were taken to task for not wanting to use money from their endowment fund—there is about $100,000 in the account—to pad the budget. We were also chided for not doing enough to raise money for the library.

As I listened to various councilors scold us, I thought of the $900, 000 the trustees and the campaign team have raised for the addition and of the years of hard work that have gone into getting to this amount.  Like most projects, the expansion fund raising started with a bang, but it is inching ever so slowly to the end, and there is a lot more fund raising to go. I would encourage all those who think raising money is a snap to join the campaign team and help us reach our goal of a little over a million dollars.

Now the good news: Despite the tongue lashings, there was also a recommendation to forgive $100,000 of the $300,000 bond taken out by the town for the library expansion. The trustees are responsible for paying this bond, which is why we are so reluctant to dip into the endowment fund to operate the library. We are concerned, quite rightly, about paying this debt. If  $100, 000 of the bond were forgiven, then that would be a big help in our fund-raising efforts.

But best of all, the meeting room was packed with people who love the library. Around eighty people came to this meeting, and many of them spoke in defence of the library and the requested budget. It was heartening to see how many people in town love and use the library and how many think that it is important for the town to support the library. Unfortunately, despite the number of people, despite their eloquence, the councilors were not swayed to give the library the full $25,000 budget increase.

None of these decisions are final until the June meeting, where the budget is presented to the town, but it is my guess that the councilors will stick to the $15,000 cut and the $100,000 forgiveness of the loan.

One thing has become very clear to me. In times of budget shortfalls—brought in part by our governor’s decisions—the library is going to be a tempting target.

And we must never, never forget this.

 

 

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