ORONO, Maine — It’s just a grassy, lumpy, rocky field right now, but by this time next year a building that will house the Orono Public Library could be standing on it.
More than 100 residents and supporters attended a Tuesday afternoon groundbreaking for the library, another step in a six-year drive to put the town’s first free-standing public library in a lot on the corner of Pine and Birch streets.
“I have to say, the groundbreaking event has to be the most satisfying day of the whole effort,” said David Chase, president of the Orono Public Library Foundation, which has been working on the new library project since 2002.
“After six years, it’s nice to be in this spot with shovels about ready to go into a pile of sand, so we can enter this final stage of getting this new library built,” Chase added.
Orono’s library is located in a 4,000-square-foot space inside a building on Goodridge Drive that also houses Orono Middle and High schools. The new building will be about 6,000 square feet, librarian Kathy Molloy said.
Construction could begin as soon as next week, Orono Public Library Foundation vice president Dana Devoe said. The contractor is E.W. Littlefield of Hartland and the architect is WBRC of Bangor.
After remarks from Molloy, Chase and Devoe, a group including those three each dug their shovels into the pile of sand for the ceremony. The public was then invited to join in. Some people brought their own shovels.
Mill Street resident and writer Sandra Hutchison was one of the first town residents to step forward and dig a shovel into the mound of dirt.
Hutchison said her daughter Shira Hollinger, a sixth-grader at Orono Middle School whose first name means poetry in Hebrew, is also excited for the new building.
“My daughter loves to write and read as well,” Hutchison said, holding an orange plastic shovel. “We are so happy. We bought a house a decade ago around the corner without any idea a library was going to be here. We’re literally two minutes away. It’s a wonderful turn of events for us.”
Several speakers thanked Alice and Charlie Smith, residents who several years ago convinced University of Maine professor Katherine Miles Durst, who died in 2002, to donate $200,000 in cash and stocks to the cause. The library’s children’s wing will be named for Durst.
“We know that libraries change lives,” Molloy said. “There will be little miracles happening with little people, some of whom haven’t even been born yet. That’s why I have a feeling of awe, thinking about the future and the wonderful things that will happen after we open the doors.”
The foundation had raised $2,049,000 as of Aug. 14. The building itself will cost around $1,547,000, Devoe said.