Cape Elizabeth library campaign off to a strong start

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Three-quarters of the $700,000 needed to pay for furniture and fixtures for the Thomas Memorial Library renovation has already been pledged.

The Thomas Memorial Library Foundation was quietly fundraising for the project in the months leading up to the Nov. 4 voter referendum on the renovation. The $4 million bond to renovate the library was approved 3,587 to 1,798.

A capital campaign committee was formed to raise the money, which will be used to buy furniture, tables, chairs, shelves and other equipment.

“Anything not a part of construction is included,” capital campaign committee member and library building committee member Frank Governali said. “Buying equipment and really capitalizing on this opportunity is what we’re trying to do.”

Because the referendum only passed last week, the foundation and the campaign and building committees have been accepting pledges instead of donations. Governali said the 75 percent pledged as of Nov. 12 has all come from Cape residents.

“These were folks who had interest or involvement in the library now or in the past,” he said.

Town Councilor and library building committee member Molly MacAuslan said they’d like to have the whole amount raised as soon as possible. Preliminary work on the library will begin by the end of this year, with actual construction expected to start next spring. The renovations are set to be finished by the end of 2015.

Now that the referendum has passed, the campaign committee is launching the public phase of its building fund. The library foundation said it will match a contribution of up to $100,000 once the fundraising goal has been reached.

The building committee has been working with Richard Reed of Reed and Co. Architecture in Portland to design the new library at 6 Scott Dyer Road.

Under the new plan, a 1985 connector building between the main library and the children’s library will be replaced with a two-story, 13,000-square-foot building. MacAuslan said it will be 10 percent larger than the current library, but will be 40 percent more efficient in how it will be laid out.

The existing main library will be renovated and the children’s library will be moved to the lower level. There also will be a children’s reading garden and outdoor play space.

MacAuslan said some of the $700,000 may be used to create “some sort of play structure” in this space. She said it wouldn’t be a swing set or playground, but might be a natural looking climbing structure.

At the center of the north wall of the library, a stairway will be renovated to include a glass wall looking into the library. At night, a light will highlight the new features, making the building visible from the road.

New features inside the library, in addition to the children’s area, will include computers and media labs, spaces for studying, and meeting rooms. Some of these spaces will be available during non-library hours. There will also be a new young adult section that will be visible from the circulation desk.

The current entrance to the library will be replaced with a covered entrance and will have a drop-off loop for cars where the existing parking lot is located. A new, 53-space, landscaped parking lot will be created on what is now a grassy area.

Governali said the “plan reflects what people’s expectations are for the library” in terms of function and a modern look. He said the committee has been able to raise so much money already because people believe in the library and enjoy using it.

“I think the community has long supported the library,” Governali said. “I think it’s very highly used.”

Governali said the financial support from residents, as well as the large amount of people who voted in favor of the renovations, reflects well on the town.

“I think this shows good community support in Cape and shows what the town’s values are,” he said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.