Construction on Presque Isle library expansion progressing well

Posted May 20, 2011, at 6:32 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Books enable youths and adults to explore new worlds, and both will have more room to explore when a massive renovation project at the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library wraps up in late July.

The library has been closed all week so that staff, construction crews and volunteers could move books, furniture and equipment into the new part of the library. Sonja Plummer-Morgan, the librarian at the Second Street facility, was in her office Friday afternoon struggling to help the staff get the library’s Internet up and running.

The facility is scheduled to reopen on May 23. After that, construction will continue as crews finish up the more than $1.5 million renovation project that started in the fall. The bulk of the cost is being financed through a $1 million donation from Mary Barton Akeley Smith. When the California resident visited the library last year to use a computer, she said she 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 and her father and mother were born and raised in Aroostook County.

The library’s board of trustees already has voted to allocate $250,000 for the project, the bulk of which has been garnered through fundraising.

“I couldn’t be happier about how this is going,” Plummer -Morgan said Friday of the renovation process. “We have new shelves and carpeting, the windows are larger and there are a lot more of them, so this place is so much brighter. They are also very energy-efficient, and this entire process has been instrumental toward our goal of making the library more comfortable and functional.”

The expansion also will add more space for books, computers and other materials and will make the facility more compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. An elevator to transport people to the top floor of the library has already been installed.

The older part of the library will be more open, according to Plummer-Morgan, with the mezzanine remaining intact. A closed-in reading room will allow readers a larger opportunity to concentrate on their books and magazines. The new section is close to 50 percent larger than the existing area.

For the past week, Plummer-Morgan said staffers and volunteers have helped move items into the new part of the library so that construction crews can revamp the old section. The volunteers included students from Presque Isle Middle School who formed a human chain to pass books from one section to the other. Students from the Loring Job Corps in Limestone helped move computer, furniture and other heavy items.

“We’ve had more than 80 volunteers this week,” she said. “This could not have been done without them.”

The project is running on budget and the librarian said staffers have worked together with construction crews and architects to solve problems along the way.

An estimated eight to twelve weeks of construction remain, according to Plummer-Morgan, and a grand opening celebration is targeted for mid to late July.