By Brian Swartz
Weekly Staff Editor
CARMEL — Located at 8 Plymouth Road in this western Penobscot County town, the Simpson Memorial Library extends its patrons’ “reach” across Maine.
Named for F. Marion Simpson, the nonprofit library was set up by the Simpson family and named for F. Marion Simpson, said Library Director Becky Ames. They donated the land, and then they brought the building down and placed it on its current site before the library’s official opening in 1925, she said.
According to Ames, the library has approximately 7,110 titles, including books, audio books, CDs, DVDs and magazines. The annual circulation is some 3,500 to 4,000 titles. “The kids’ circulation triples in the summer,” she said, and adult circulation outpaces children’s circulation once school resumes in late summer.
Library use is not limited to Carmel residents, and the library does not charge out-of-town residents to check out titles. “It’s called a ‘free library.’ We don’t charge for the [library] cards,” Ames said.
The Simpson Memorial Library is not a municipal department, yet, “The town funds our operating expenses,” Ames said. She explained that the library’s budget appears on the town warrant voted upon at the annual town meeting; voters, who accept or reject the budget ($22,025 for the current fiscal year), habitually support the library.
Its only full-time employee, Ames relies on several volunteers who assist her on a regular basis. Some local high school students perform community service at the library as part of their graduation requirements; this school year, two Caravel Middle School students are helping at the library, too.
A brochure describes the Simpson Memorial Library “as a multi-media educational center for … Carmel and surrounding towns.” The library, which provides public Internet access, integrates modern technology “with traditional collections of books” and other printed and “audio/visual materials,” according to the brochure.
Among the library’s services are two children’s programs. The regular children’s story hour is held at 10 a.m. on the second Saturday of each month from September to May; titled “Gingerbread Story Hour,” the Dec. 14 program will be held at the Benevolent Lodge on Plymouth Road in Carmel. The “Babies Love Books” story time is a 30-minute program held at 11:30 a.m. on the third Tuesday of each month, sometimes at the library and sometimes at the Golden Harvest Grange on Route 2 in Carmel. The story time is designed for children from age 1 up to 3 or 4 years, Ames said.
The seven-week Summer Read program starts right after school gets out. “It’s for infancy up to 13 years of age,” Ames said.
“We offer a homebound service” for Carmel residents who cannot travel to the library, she said. “A trustee will take a box of books out, and they [patrons] can pick a few to read.”
Ames teaches computer classes one on one by appointment for people who want to learn more about computers.
The Simpson Memorial Library faces challenges similar to other small libraries in the state. “You always have to be aware of your budget constraints,” Ames said. “You have to be aware of patrons’ changing needs. You have to pick and choose what will best serve your patrons and meet the needs of the town.”
In 2012 the library received a Brownstone Grant from the Brownstone Foundation of New York City. The grant provided a list of children’s book titles, all on different topics, from which Ames selected 100 books.
“It was so wonderful,” she said. “That was really a big help.”
Ames indicated that while the library could join a service that provides downloadable books, but for the Simpson Memorial Library to do so, “would come close to taking half of my book budget.
I don’t foresee the print version [of books] going out,” she said.
Ames talked about the interlibrary loan program, which, she said, has incredibly enhanced what the library can offer patrons. Through the program, patrons can obtain from other libraries in Maine particular titles unavailable at Simpson Memorial Library.
Bangor Public Library Director Barbara McDade “wrote a grant to have the courier come once a week,” Ames said. “It’s a tremendous resource for the small libraries in the state.”
Simpson Library patrons have borrowed more than 250 books so far through the interlibrary loan program, Ames said. “I’d say probably 90 percent of the books we borrow probably come out of Bangor,” she said.
Ames, who grew up in Bucksport, lives in Prospect. A member of the Maine Library Association, she earned a bachelor’s degree in library science and information technology from the University of Maine at Augusta. She has been the library director in Carmel for more than seven years.
The Simpson Memorial Library is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. For information, call 848-7145 or go to simpsonmemorial.org.