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Stephen and Tabitha King offer to cover one-third of $9 million Bangor library renovation, if library finds ways to foot the rest of the bill

Posted March 19, 2013, at 5:42 p.m.
Last modified March 19, 2013, at 6:57 p.m.
Paul Farnham sits in the popular fiction reading room of the Bangor Public Library on Tuesday, March 19, 2013. The room is one several in the library that may be redesigned or repurposed, said Library Campaign Director Kate Villa.
Carter F. McCall | BDN
Paul Farnham sits in the popular fiction reading room of the Bangor Public Library on Tuesday, March 19, 2013. The room is one several in the library that may be redesigned or repurposed, said Library Campaign Director Kate Villa. Buy Photo
Barbara McDade, Bangor Public Library Director
BDN photo
Barbara McDade, Bangor Public Library Director Buy Photo

BANGOR, Maine — Authors Stephen and Tabitha King have pledged $3 million toward renovations at Bangor’s century-old public library, as long as the library reaches its goal of raising another $6 million, according to the library’s director.

The Bangor Public Library has kicked off a $9 million fundraising effort in an attempt to modernize its building for the next generation of users and to protect its more than 500,000 volumes, Director Barbara McDade said Tuesday.

The Kings offered to pay one-third of that bill as long as the library figured out how to come up with the rest.

“They have just been wonderful supporters of the library,” McDade said of the Kings.

When the library launched an $8.5 million fundraising effort toward a renovation and expansion wing in the mid-1990s, the Kings contributed $2.5 million. “They also replaced our front marble steps [six or seven years ago], which were worn to the point where they were dangerous,” McDade said.

A message sent to the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation on Tuesday seeking comment was not returned.

Tabitha King was a long-time member of the library’s board, but has termed out. She continues to serve on the library’s building committee, according to McDade.

Earlier this month, the library announced its dire need for a new roof after multiple leaks threatened stacks of books and intricate plaster of Paris work and caused the Bangor Room’s ceiling to sink three inches. Roofing consultants told the library its best option would be a $3 million copper roof because it would last for 80-100 years with minimal maintenance costs. The library’s current copper roof was installed in 1912 and is beyond repair, according to library officials. Extensive work to the structure supporting the roof also will need to be completed.

Bangor residents will vote in June to decide whether the city will take out a bond for up to $3 million to pay for the roof project, which will be just the first step in the overhaul. During a March 11 workshop, most city councilors voiced support for the bond, which requires voter approval under a charter amendment passed by voters in November 2012. A first reading of the referendum is expected to appear on the agenda for the March 25 council meeting.

The library also is in early planning stages for a major interior upgrade, an effort to modernize the facility and meet the needs of users, McDade said.

For example, the renovation would create more meeting space for the more than 450 meetings groups hold at the library each year. Other changes will be aimed at making users and employees feel safer. Shelves would be lower and easier to reach, lighting would be improved and the layout would be updated to give patrons better lines of sight, McDade said. Those upgrades would cost around $3 million, according to the library.

“We also want to preserve the finer parts of the building that we like,” such as the marble staircases, antique woodwork and intricate molding, McDade said.

The other $3 million the library is trying to raise would go into its endowment fund, which pays for about 39 percent of the operating costs — the city covers the other 61 percent — as well as the purchase of books and other materials and database work. About $500,000 of that $3 million would go toward the library’s contingency account.

The library is holding a meeting from 5 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20 to hear residents’ thoughts on the focus of the library’s re-envisioning and modernization.

For more information or to take a survey to provide your insight on what the library’s future should look like, visit www.bpl.lib.me.us/Events/library_survey.html.

With the Kings and the roof bond potentially covering $6 million toward the $9 million project, another fundraising effort has sprung up to chip away at the remainder.

Stephen King’s Maine radio stations under Zone Radio, which includes WKIT-100.3, WZLO-103.1 and WZON The Pulse AM 620, have launched a “Copper for Change” drive this week to raise money for the library’s efforts.

Empty water jugs are being placed in Bangor-area businesses to collect pennies in a “copper-for-copper” exchange, though modern pennies are only about 2.5 percent copper, according to the U.S. Mint. Other denominations of change, bills and checks also will be accepted.

“The whole idea behind a local radio station is to serve your local community,” Zone General Manager Bobby Russell said Tuesday, adding that this fundraising campaign is “the right thing to do” for an institution that is an “incredible asset to the community.”

Russell said his family uses the library regularly. His wife’s mother is losing her sight and has listened to most of the library’s books on tape, Russell said.

The stations will match whatever is raised up to $50,000. The donation was cleared by Stephen King, as long as it comes out of the radio stations’ operating budgets, according to Russell.

Jugs are available at Bangor Letter Shop, Gosselins Bakery, Bangor Wine and Cheese, Corey Recycling in Orrington, Brewer Federal Credit Union, Central Maine Wireless, and Zone Radio stations. Jugs will be popping up in more locations as the fundraising continues.

Business owners interested in placing a jug in their establishment may contact Zone Radio at 990-2800.

“Everybody has got a jar of pennies in their closet,” Russell said. “Just grab them and bring them in and we’ll match it.”

He said he would love to be able to give the library a $100,000 check.

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