Presque Isle library receives $25,000 donation to improve literacy services

Posted June 12, 2010, at 1:59 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:54 a.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Over the past week, officials at the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library have found themselves in the middle of a fairy tale.

First, a California woman with ties to the library donated $1 million that will be used to expand the 102-year-old facility.

Just a few days later, the Family Literacy Project at the library received another donation in the form of a $25,000 grant from the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy Maine Family Literacy Initiative.

The grant will be used to help families in the Presque Isle community that struggle with literacy-related challenges. This grant also will enable library staff to provide people with assistance, a collection of materials and programs that the Second Street facility believes will help families improve their lives.

Children’s Librarian Rick Asam accepted the award from the Bush Foundation at a ceremony in Biddeford on Thursday.

News of the $1 million donation came Monday. The donor, Mary Barton Akeley Smith, visited Presque Isle in the past year and came into the library to use a computer and realized how important the library is to the community, especially to those who do not have a computer or telephone of their own.

Smith’s 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.

Librarian Sonja Plummer-Morgan and the board of trustees have several ideas for the library. They would like to see more programming space and an expansion of the children’s area that will enable more services for teenagers. Additional computers also are needed, according to Plummer-Morgan.

Smith’s gift will cover the bulk of the library’s $1.5 million expansion project. The library’s board of trustees already has voted to allocate $250,000 for the project. Library officials have approached the City Council about using city funds for the project and also will garner a chunk of the remaining money needed through fundraising.

A total of eight grants of $25,000 and one grant for $15,000 were awarded this year through applications submitted to the Bush Foundation by libraries, adult education and public schools across the state.

Founded by Barbara Bush in 1989, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy supports the development and expansion of family literacy programs — in settings where parents and children read and learn together — across the United States.

As of April 2010, the Foundation had awarded $35 million to 795 family literacy programs in 50 states and Washington, D.C. In addition to its national program, the Foundation supports the work of statewide initiatives in Maine, Texas, Maryland and Florida.

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