Californian’s gift revitalizes Presque Isle library

Posted Nov. 15, 2010, at 10:02 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:49 a.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The city saw the first physical signs last week of a $1 million transformation being carried out at the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library, as more than 20 people turned out for an official groundbreaking ceremony at the Second Street facility.

Although construction started three weeks ago, the ceremony, held Friday afternoon, officially lauded what the library will become thanks to the generosity of a California woman.

In June, Mary Barton Akeley Smith, a California resident with ties to the community, donated $1 million to the library to fund an expansion project.

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.

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.

Smith came into the library to use 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 the conversation, she realized how important the library is to the community and to its residents. That realization prompted her to make the donation.

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

“This is a very exciting time for us,” Sonja Plummer-Morgan, librarian at the facility, said Monday. “This is the third week of construction, and everyone in the community is very excited about this. It is a huge event in the library’s history.”

The gift will cover the bulk of the approximately $1.6 million expansion project. The library’s board of trustees also voted in June to allocate $250,000 for the project. Since it was important to Smith that the community invest in the project, city officials voted to allocate approximately $350,000 toward the effort.

The library continues to raise funds with an estimated $18,000 in private donations already in hand.

While the library has had to move some things around in order to accommodate construction crews, library services are continuing as usual.

“We are very pleased with how construction is coming along,” Plummer-Morgan said Monday.

The project is expected to be completed in July.

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