ORONO, Maine — There was still some work to be completed Tuesday morning inside and outside the new Orono Public Library. But Laurie Carpenter didn’t need to see a finished building to understand what it will mean for the community and staff.
“It brought tears to my eyes, it really did, and we came in [months ago] when it was just a shell, when there were just studs up for offices,” said Carpenter, who became library director this summer after more than 20 years as the youth services librarian. “We’d been in a building that didn’t have a lot of windows, we didn’t know if it was sunny or snowing outside. Here, we’re going to know it all. The windows are wonderful.”
The town’s first standalone library, now a light, airy space compared to the old library located in the middle school-high school building, opened Wednesday for patrons. The official celebration will be held Saturday during the town’s Festival Day with tours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10:45 a.m.
About $2.1 million, including $600,000 from the town, was raised for the new building, located on Pine Street. Ground was broken Sept. 23, 2008, and construction began shortly thereafter. A crew of staff and volunteers began to pack up the old library in August and helped with the move-in earlier this month.
“This is Orono’s building, their project. When people say, ‘oh, thank you,’ I say, ‘it’s not me, it’s you,’” said circulation manager Joyce Weibe. “We just work here.”
The library will need more help from the community in the coming months. One full-time staffer was lost when a position was eliminated because of town budget issues. The library has been forced to close Mondays.
“Here we are with a brand new facility and not enough people to run it,” Carpenter said. “We’re hoping for volunteers, which won’t necessarily mean we’ll open back up on Mondays, but we have two circulation desks here where at the old library we had one, so we’ll need to make sure those are staffed.”
Library patrons should notice some big changes for the better.
The library building is about 6,000 square feet, a huge jump in space from the 3,000 square foot space in the school building.
Some book space was lost because the library‘s bookcases now have six shelves instead of eight, but the new cases are easier to reach and make the library compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Another feature of the new bookcases are tilted lower shelves, which make it easier to browse the titles on the spines of books without having to stoop over too much.
The library also features some elements that have led to a silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification. The building will be heated with propane-fired radiant heat. The carpet was made from recycled materials, and the entryway was made from recycled tires. The lighting fixtures have the capa-bility to dim when a sensor detects a certain level of natural light.
There is no dedicated computer room, but the library will have up to 10 laptops that patrons can check out for the time they’re in the facility.
“That’s our way of providing public access to computers,” Carpenter said. “That’s kind of new and different. People are excited to hear it’s going to be all laptops.”
The children’s area was perked up with a puppet theater and bench constructed by local carpenter Bob Lombardo. Orono artist Valerie Wallace painted the puppet theater and also painted a mural of storybook characters on the youth services office.
The children’s section also features shorter bookcases and pull-out bins with all of the children’s picture books, which were constructed by Mount Vernon carpenter Jamie Clough.
There’s also potential for four additions on each corner of the library, when the time comes and money is available to expand.
“The building was constructed in anticipation of the additions, so the mechanical system is all set up and ready to go,” Carpenter said. “We’re hoping that someone says, Oh, I think you need more space.”