June 20, 2018
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$1M gift to fund library expansion

By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — All libraries offer books, but the Mark and Emily Turner Library provides a vital lifeline to services many take for granted, including computer and Internet access, job skills information and online education classes.

A California woman who visited the Presque Isle library noticed the facility’s special role in the community and has donated $1 million to expand the library and make sure even more people can take advantage of what it has to offer.

Library officials, members of its board of trustees and city officials announced during a press conference Monday afternoon that Mary Barton Akeley Smith, a California resident with ties to the community, had given the facility the $1 million to fund an expansion project.

Smith’s ties to The County are strong. Her grandmother, Beulah Barton Akeley, was the librarian in Presque Isle from 1932 to 1945. Her father and mother were born and raised in Aroostook County.

Sonja-Plummer Morgan, librarian at the Second Street facility, said Monday that Smith came into the library to access a computer while visiting Presque Isle sometime in the past year. While on the computer, she overheard another patron who was using the phone to call potential employers to whom he had sent resumes in order to make sure they had received them.

“When she overheard him, she realized how important the library is to this community and to lives,” said Plummer-Morgan. “She was touched by it and decided to give us this gift to expand the library.”

The library first opened in 1908. The community uses the library not only to access books, computers and the Internet, but also to obtain notary public and passport services.

“We were so pleased when we got this news,” said Plummer-Morgan. “We already have an artist’s rendering of what the outside will look like, and we have early floor plans as well.”

The expansion will add more space for books, computers and other materials and will make the facility more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The gift will cover the bulk of the $1.5 million expansion project. Plummer-Morgan said the library’s board of trustees also has voted to allocate $250,000 for the project. Library officials were going to speak with the City Council on Monday evening about accessing some city funds for the project.

“It is important to Mary that the community offers a financial contribution,” she said. “It will be the city’s decision if they want to do that and how much they would like to give. The rest we will raise through fundraising.”

Plummer-Morgan said that she is optimistic city councilors will support the project.

“This is so exciting, and this facility is going to be an even bigger asset to the community once it is completed,” she said.

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