BANGOR — Surrounded by staging, its copper dome encased in plywood and black tarps, the Bangor Public Library resembles a patient undergoing life-saving surgery — or in the case of this historic building, library-saving surgery.
In June, workers from Bangor-based Roof Systems of Maine started replacing the BPL’s original copper roof, constructed before the facility opened in 1913. As the years passed, that aging roof “would leak, and we would be able to find repairs for it,” said Director Barbara McDade.
“About two years ago, we just couldn’t find repairs for it,” and leaks caused “some interior damage,” she said. During some heavy rainfalls, water would drain into the main entrance and cascade down the library’s iconic granite steps.
Library directors decided to replace the failing roof; in June 2013 Bangor voters overwhelmingly approved a $3 million bond issue for the project.
Besides installing a new copper roof, workers also are “taking care of problems associated with the leaks,” such as sandblasting and repointing bricks, McDade said.
“Our roofers are hard at work” on site and at RSM’s 332 Target Industrial Circle facilities, where “the copper roof is being crafted,” she said. “There are different weights to the copper” depending on where it will be placed on the roof. Plans call for the seven-month project to be completed in early 2014.
Library staffers have already noticed a major change since the project began. “Whatever they’re doing up there, it’s working,” McDade said. “Even the rain we had Friday (Aug. 9), when it was coming down in sheets, we didn’t have any leaks.”
The roof replacement is one-third of a $9 million “Yes For The Library” fund-raising campaign currently underway. An additional $3 million would cover a major redesign and renovations of the library’s interior, $2 million would boost the endowment fund, and $1 million would cover construction contingencies, fund-raising costs, and three years of operating costs.
Stephen and Tabitha King have pledged a $3 million matching grant toward the campaign. Other BPL supporters have donated $1.8 million, leaving the campaign only $1.2 million short of its goal.
McDade discussed the proposed interior redesign. “We wanted a more flexible space to make the library fit with how people are using it now,” she said.
Many people use the library’s public computers to access the Internet. “A lot of people want to know how to use different aspects of the Internet,” McDade said. “We’re teaching more classes for digital literacy and how to use social media. There’s a demand.”
“People come here for meetings,” she said, noting that more than 490 meetings “not on our regular library calendar” took place at the library in 2012. The BPL also hosts monthly displays featuring local artists.
“We are more than just a library today,” McDade said. “We are a meeting place where people come to read the paper, check out books, do research, search the Internet, and meet to talk about what’s important to them.”
Scott Simons, a Portland-based architect, developed a comprehensive proposal that “pretty much changes everything” inside the library, McDade said. Focus groups have reviewed the proposal; BPL directors will schedule a hearing to present the plans to the public.
Among the major changes that would be made to the library’s first floor:
• The Children’s Room, currently located on the first floor of the 1997 library addition designed by architect Robert A.M. Stern, will relocate to the third floor in the same addition. As part of the Children’s Room, an expanded Young Adults’ section will occupy space on the third floor of the main library.
• New stairs will extend from the entrance to the 1997 addition all the way to its third floor.
• A glassed-in “front porch” will be constructed on the Stern addition. Inside this porch, which will face Harlow Street, will be a café where library patrons can relax, “bring in coffee, and read the paper,” McDade said.
• The main circulation desk will relocate to the first floor of the Stern addition and will face a new reading room. The computer room will relocate to space beside this reading room.
• Compact shelving will be installed “so we can store 2½ times as many books in the same space we’re using for book storage right now,” McDade said.
On the library’s second floor:
• The existing computer room will become “a nice reading space with periodicals and places where you can sit,” McDade said. “It’s the room that gets the best sunlight even in winter; it will be a pleasant, sunny place to relax and read.”
• The Bangor Room will move from the third floor to the large room on the left of the library’s main entrance. The BPL’s extensive microfilm collection will be placed next to the Bangor Room.
• The reference desk will occupy the space vacated by the main circulation desk.
• A business center will open on the second floor of the 1997 addition. According to McDade, small business owners often meet their clients at the BPL; to meet this need, the business center will feature “small rooms where people can meet for business,” McDade said. “This center would be a resource for small business owners.”
On the library’s third floor:
• A fine art gallery will replace the existing Bangor Room.
• Renovations will be made to the lecture hall.
At different locations in the library, “glades of books” will be created to group non-fiction books “by practical topics rather than just by the Dewey [Decimal system],” McDade said. “It will have more of a bookstore feel to it.”
Library officials have set no timeframe for renovating the facility’s three floors, McDade indicated. “We must raise the funds and complete the redesign plans,” she said.
“We’re really excited about this,” McDade said. “The library is really important to the Bangor area. We want to be able to continue to provide the level of service that we have provided to the public.”
For more information about “Yes For The Library,” go to yesforthelibrary.com.
To donate, call 947-8336, ext. 130; email email@example.com; or go to yesforthelibrary.com.