Presque Isle library budget cuts force changes

Posted Dec. 18, 2012, at 7:16 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — During the past two years, the Mark and Emily Turner Library has undergone a face lift.

In 2010, a California benefactor donated more than $1 million to the facility, which powered a $1.5 million renovation project that has expanded the library’s catalogue, added more computers and made the facility more accessible.

At the same time, the downturn in the economy has forced the city to make significant cutbacks, and the library could not escape them.

During a meeting last week, the City Council finalized its $10.8 million municipal budget for next year. Funds to a number of departments were slashed to maintain the $23.50 property tax rate for the third year in a row.

Sonja Plummer-Morgan, librarian at the Second Street facility, said Tuesday that the financial losses have forced a staff reduction and generated a schedule change to save money and preserve services.

“One of the things that will change is that we will be open later on Wednesday nights and close entirely on Sundays,” she explained.

Plummer-Morgan said that the library currently closes at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, but will begin closing at 7 p.m. next Wednesday.

During the summer months, the library will close on Saturdays for six weeks.

“We tend to see fewer people in the summer due to the nice weather,” said Plummer-Morgan, adding that the move was envisioned as a way to cut expenses without significantly affecting services.

City officials also cut one full-time position and one part-time position from the current staff of four full-timers and 7 parttimers. Plummer-Morgan said that the employees are saddened by the loss of two colleagues, but she added that it is too early to say what impact that will have on library operations.

At this point, the library remains focused on meeting long-term goals for the facility.

In 2010, California resident Mary Barton Akeley Smith donated $1 million to the library after visiting the area and realizing how important it is to the community, especially to those who do not have a computer or telephone of their own.

A short time later, the library’s board of trustees approved a renovation project and allocated $250,000 generated through fundraising toward the effort.

The expansion added more space for books, along with computers and other materials. The library has revamped its teen center to attract more students and give them a comfortable place to study. The library also is more compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and the renovation has made the facility more energy-efficient, comfortable and functional.

Smith is linked to Aroostook County through her grandmother, Beulah Barton Akeley, who was the librarian in Presque Isle from 1932 to 1945. Her father and mother also were born and raised in the region.

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