PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Now that the City Council has approved preliminary financial and construction documents, officials at the Mark and Emily Turner Library are moving forward with a major expansion project that is going to open the facility to an even broader range of consumers.
Sonja Plummer-Morgan, librarian at the Second Street facility, said Wednesday that councilors recently approved the project budget and scope and authorized City Manager Jim Bennett to sign an escrow agreement between the city and a California woman who donated $1 million to fund the expansion project.
“We are very excited,” said the librarian. “We are now working on a timeline of the project for the council and are beginning to do some additional fundraising to make this happen for us.”
Last month, library officials, members of its board of trustees and city officials announced that Mary Barton Akeley Smith, a California resident with ties to the community, had made the generous donation.
Smith’s gift came after she visited the library during a trip to the city. Plummer-Morgan said Smith came into the library to use a computer 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.
After she overheard him, she realized how important the library is to the community and its residents, according to the librarian. She then decided to donate $1 million to the facility.
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.
The library first opened in 1908. The community uses the library not only for access to books, computers and the Internet, but also to obtain notary public and passport services.
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. Library officials are hoping to install an elevator in the building to make the three floors of the facility more accessible.
Plummer-Morgan said more computers are needed to meet the growing demand of its patrons, as the library’s computers were used at least 103,000 times last year.
As part of the expansion, more programming space will be created and the children’s area will be enlarged to allow for more services for teenagers.
The gift will cover the bulk of the $1.5 million expansion project, and the board of trustees also has voted to allocate $250,000 for the project.
Smith said it was important to her that the city offers a financial contribution, Plummer-Morgan said, so library officials have spoken to the City Council about using city funds for the project.
“I believe that the city will be making a financial contribution, but I don’t know how much that will be just yet,” she said Wednesday. “There hasn’t been detailed talk of an exact figure.”
No matter what the city gives, she said, the bulk of the extra money that is needed for the project will be generated through fundraising.
“We are talking about ideas for fundraising right now, and we believe that we are going to see more donors come forward,” said Plummer-Morgan. “We are hearing very good feedback about this project from the community. They are happy that this is getting done and that the library is going to be an even bigger resource for this community.”