BAR HARBOR, Maine — Officials with the Jesup Memorial Library are planning to do something that has not been done in more than 100 years.
The organization’s building on Mount Desert Street is expected to grow for the first time since the library was founded in 1911. Exactly how it might grow has not yet been determined, but it will involve a property next door, on the corner of Mount Desert and School streets, where a former optometrist’s office is located.
The library purchased the quarter-acre property last week at a price of $760,000, Ruth Eveland, the library’s executive director, said Tuesday.
Library officials had been thinking generally over the past couple years about the building’s physical needs, she said, but when the adjacent property suddenly became available it spurred them into action.
The library’s current 0.4-acre lot is “maxed out,” between the library building and the staff parking lot, Eveland said, so any expansion would require additional property. The YWCA, on the library’s west side, isn’t expected to be on the market anytime soon.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Eveland said, seated at a table in a large, crowded office room in the library’s ground floor. “Once we became aware of [the opportunity to buy the optometrist’s office], we couldn’t say no. We need more room.”
All five banks with local branches are helping to finance the property sale, she said, which shows that there is strong community support for expanding the facility.
Eveland said the preliminary concept is to build a new wing that will roughly double the size of the existing building, which has 11,500 square feet of usable floor space. Whatever gets built will be built with a traditional exterior so it blends in with the neighborhood, she said.
The library has hired a consultant to help determine its needs and how much money it should raise for the likely multimillion dollar project. Along with construction funds, the campaign will seek to raise money for its endowment, to help cover operating costs such as added personnel and maintenance needs, she said.
Eveland said the library gets only 6 percent of its annual budget from the town of Bar Harbor, while the rest is covered by its endowment, annual fundraising efforts, book sale proceeds and other sources. The capital campaign is expected to cover the vast majority of the project costs, she said.
“We’re planning a serious campaign that will get us as far into the future as possible,” Eveland said.
There likely will be a community meeting space with an attached kitchen, she said, and an area she called “maker space,” where unusual devices such as 3-D printers, design stations, and a machine that makes books from manuscripts could be available to patrons. The library’s computer and Internet-access capabilities also are expected to expand.
Eveland said the capital campaign itself likely will take a few years to complete, so the library plans to use part of the adjacent property as it is for a while, and may even rent part of it out.
“The opportunity to make this library everything it can be is really exciting to me,” Eveland said.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.