PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — With phase one of its $1.5 million renovation project now complete, officials with The Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library announced on Monday that they will be kicking off phase two of their substantial makeover effort this spring.
The final stretch of the renovation will outfit the library with an updated interior, a new two story entryway and a number of exterior changes.
It was a project that few saw coming until a California resident named Mary Barton Akeley Smith stopped into the library to use a computer in 2010.
While doing so, 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, Smith realized how important the library was to the community and to its residents. That prompted her to donate $1.3 million to the facility. The library’s board of trustees voted to allocate $250,000 for the project and city officials added approximately $350,000 more.
Smith’s 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.
The library first opened in 1908. The community uses it not only for its books, computers and the Internet, but also to obtain notary public and passport services.
Phase one of the expansion was completed in May 2011. It added more space for books, computers and other materials and made the facility more compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. An older part of the library was made more open and a closed-in reading room was added.
Phase two renovations will include new lighting, furnishings and color schemes as well as a separate teen area, a larger quiet reading room and comfortable seating in a new centrally located periodicals section.
The library has garnered a number of gifts to finance the work that began with Smith’s donation, including bequests from the Ray and Sandy Gauvin Family Foundation, the Maine Humanities Council, the Howard & Espa Michaud Fund and the Green Foundation.
Emily Smith, chairman of the Presque Isle city council, said Monday that the community was “truly grateful” for such funding.
“We are fortunate to have received generous donations in our community,” she said “The support and interest of such dedicated benefactors have undoubtedly shaped and molded the future of our library.”
Dianna Leighton, Turner’s youth librarian, said Monday that one of the main goals of phase two is to create a warm, inviting space within the new teen area.
A committee of library board members, staff and residents are working with Scott Simons Architects of Portland to choose new lighting, furnishings and color schemes.
Once groundbreaking begins this spring, the project should be completed within a year.