BANGOR, Maine — With $7.7 million already in the bag, the Bangor Public Library is seeking community support for the remainder needed for a $9 million overhaul.
A campaign to raise $1.3 million was launched Wednesday with an afternoon news conference followed by a focus group discussion and a public unveiling of the interior design plans by Portland architect Scott Simons.
During a sneak peek for the local media, Simons — whose work includes the recent Portland Public Library renovation — outlined some of the changes he is proposing for the 100-year-old original structure and additions that go back to the 1950s and 1990s.
The changes aim to provide the library better lighting, visibility and flow. The idea, he said, is to make the library — now a maze of small spaces — more user-friendly for the roughly 800 people who visit each day.
The changes also aim to keep the library relevant to those users, only half of whom come there for books.
“You know the saying change or die? Well, this library is not dying,” campaign chairman Kate Villa said.
The fundraising campaign will run through Dec. 31, Villa said.
Notably, Simons has incorporated a small glassed-in addition of what he called a “front porch atrium” on the front of the building where the children’s wing is located. The children’s and young adult programs will move up to the top level, where there will be space for performances or storytime and a small kitchenette.
The two-story atrium will serve as the main entrance and link the old and new sections, which now are connected by a small, dark, low-ceilinged octogonal structure. It will house a cafe-style room where patrons can gather, the main circulation desk and a public computing area.
Among the major changes is the removal of some inside walls to create larger, more open spaces and allow in natural light. Reconfiguring the interior also will improve visibility and safety, Simons noted.
Plans also call for space and technology earmarked for use by small businesses, a reading room, more storage space and performance and gallery spaces as well as renovations to the restrooms.
Something that will be new to patrons is the plan to create “glades,” or themed areas, for books, which now are spread throughout the library based on the Dewey Decimal system, which patrons rarely use. The glades will look a lot like the sections one would see in a bookstore.
Plans also include storing seldomly used book in high-density shelving that can house 2½ books for every one book that sits on the library’s’ current shelving, Villa said.
The public aspect of the campaign was kickstarted Wednesday with the presentation of a check for more than $21,500 from Zone Radio’s “Copper for Change” fundraising effort, which ran from mid-March through mid-June.
Elements of the library overhaul include:
— A $3 million copper dome and roofs replacement and repair project. That work, being done by Roof Systems of Maine, is now underway.
— A $3 million interior redesign and renovation.
— $2 million toward an endowment for the library’s future.
— $1 million toward operating costs, construction contingencies and campaign costs.
The roof aspect of the $9 million makeover is being covered by the $3 million bond that Bangor voters passed in June. Authors Stephen and Tabitha King pledged to provide another $3 million, but only if the library raised the other $6 million.
As of Wednesday, the library staff, board members and other supporters had raised $1.7 million of the $3 million balance during the “quiet phase” of the campaign, leaving $1.3 million to be raised by the public.
Library Director Barbara McDade said Wednesday that she didn’t expect to be taking on such a large-scale overhaul “although it was something that needed to be done.”
“But when the roof happened and the Kings gave us the big grant, it became the perfect time to fix all those things.”
“In the last 15 years, how people use libraries has changed so much. We just have to adapt to what’s going on,” she said.
“We wanted to preserve what was here,” she said. “We wanted people to feel safe because we get that all the time. People don’t feel safe.”