Pembroke Library gets invaluable assistance from Washington County Community College students

Posted March 24, 2011, at 2:18 p.m.
Last modified March 24, 2011, at 5:54 p.m.

PEMBROKE, Maine — The sound of progress echoed through the Pembroke Library on Thursday — the clomp, clomp, clomp of heavy work boots coming from the second floor.

A major renovation of the second story of the once private home and then Grange Hall is under way and the workmen are all students enrolled in the Building Trades Program at Washington County Community College.

Eight wannabe electricians were on site Thursday, rewiring what will eventually be a community gathering space. The community room will augment the beautifully structured first floor, which contains a reading room, wireless computer area, stacks and shelves of books, a circulation desk and a children’s room.

The Pembroke Library work is a grass-roots effort accomplished without support from the municipality.

“This has all been done with grant money and donations,” said John Bloemendaal, treasurer and member of the library Board of Directors. A former math teacher at WCCC, Bloemendaal said using students as free labor is a perfect fit.

The library was originally a private residence built around 1865, a twin to a home that sits next door. The pair was owned by sisters from Boston whose husbands were partners in an import business, library volunteer Linda Gralenski said. At the turn of the 20th century, the library’s future home became the local Grange Hall.

“And then it sat empty for a while,” Gralenski said. “It was a mess.”

Because the town government did not want the financial liability of supporting a town library, Pembroke residents took it upon themselves to establish it in 2001.

“An anonymous private citizen bought the building at auction and donated it to the Pembroke Library Association,” Bloemendaal said.

A new foundation was installed, new windows inserted, and renovations of the first floor began. The Pembroke Library Association used a combination of Community Development Block Grant funds, a grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, a Libra Foundation grant and local donations of work and cash to do the work.

There is no permanent staff — the library is operated by an enthusiastic cadre of volunteers. On Thursday, it was also filled with eight student electricians.

“This is as realistic as it gets,” their instructor, Bill Barnett, said as he watched them string electrical wiring through wall studs. He said his students are part of a unique 10-month program that consists of two semesters and a summer session that allows them to finish their studies in under a year and sit for the state electrical test.

“We’ve already run into some issues,” Barnett said as he kept an eye on the students. “But we aren’t leaving today until we finish the roughed-in stage. We’ll return in the fall with another class to do the finish work.”

Barnett said it was his second year as a WCCC instructor and, historically, the program has good success.

The outreach work to the library was also praised by Joyce B. Hedlund, WCCC’s president.

“The uniqueness of a Washington County Community College education stems from a true understanding of the word ‘community,’‘’ Hedlund said. “Not only is it important for students to learn the theory and application of their particular technology in a shop or laboratory, it is also important that they learn the benefit of giving back to the community.”

The library is open 9 a.m. to noon and 3-5 p.m. on Tuesdays, 3-8 p.m. Wednesdays, 3-5 p.m. Thursdays, 3-6 p.m. Fridays, and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays. The library offers wireless Internet access and interlibrary loan services. It is located at 221 Old County Road. For more information, call 726-4745.

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