Cape Elizabeth library turns final page of $4M renovation

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CAPE ELIZABETH — After years of referendums, building committees, and temporary relocations, the Thomas Memorial Library renovation is complete.

The library at 6 Scott Dyer Road was scheduled for a “soft reopening” Thursday, with a formal opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony planned for 9 a.m. Monday, Feb. 8. The library will be open regular hours Thursday through Saturday.

The $4 million library renovation, which was approved in a November 2014 referendum, resulted in the library being temporarily housed in the adjacent former Spurwink School building for the past year. Both buildings were closed for the month of January and the first week of February while the transition to the new building took place.

Library Director Kyle Neugebauer, who was hired in December to replace former Director Jay Scherma, said he is looking forward to residents seeing the new space.

“I’m most excited just to see the community come in and see a library they worked for, something they helped create,” Neugebauer said. “It’s something they can be proud of and that will be here to serve them.”

Neugebauer on Wednesday said the library was almost 100 percent ready to go, with just a few last-minute details left to complete. He said the biggest thing is preparing the staff for all the people expected to visit over the coming days.

“What do we need to think about from a staff standpoint to make everyone feel welcome?” he said.

Aside from that, everything in the two-story library is in place. All the books are shelved, which Neugebauer said took two weeks and the help of 20 volunteers.

“The books wouldn’t be on the shelves without them,” he said. “There’s no way we could have done it.”

Patrons will walk into a lobby through the library’s main entrance. Straight ahead there is a staircase leading down to the children’s section, and a staircase leading up to circulation and the adult and young adult sections.

The upper level also has a digital media section and computers for public use. There is plenty of seating, and tables with built-in power sources and USB plugs. Wi-Fi is available throughout the building. There are also reading nooks, a fireplace, and a group gathering area with armchairs that can be used for book clubs and other events.

The Gabriel A. Zimpritch poetry collection is also on the upper floor; the collection honors a Cape Elizabeth High School student who died in 1995 from a heart condition. The Zimpritch family has been a major donor over the years, Neugebauer said.

In the young adult section there are two study rooms with large tables and chairs, which can be reserved. Next door is a game room with a 70-inch television, a Wii, a PlayStation 4 and an Xbox.

“That’ll be a lot of fun,” Neugebauer said. “Kids and teens will really enjoy it.”

On Feb. 17 from 1-3 p.m., the library will host a Wii Sports play-off in the game room.

On the lower level, the children’s library features bright colors, soft lighting and an  architectural ceiling. There is also a story-time circle and a play area. A children’s garden, with rocking chairs for parents, will be created when it’s warmer outside.

“Now that the inside is basically done, we can begin thinking about the outside,” Neugebauer said.

This also applies to the space in front of the library on the lawn that faces Scott Dyer Road. A stone patio is being built, Neugebauer said, with the hope of having it used as a performance space.

The lower level of the library also includes the Steir Family Gallery, which will feature rotating art exhibits.

“We’ll have a lot of local artists, but it’s also fun to bring in something a little more exotic,” Neugebauer said.

The current exhibit is “The Art of the Story: A Celebration of Maine Illustrators.” On Feb. 6 from 3-5 p.m., there will be an opening reception for the gallery and a book sale. Artists Russ Cox and Mark Ricketts will also perform in a “draw-off.”

There is also a media lab on the lower level, which has a green screen, a Mac computer with video editing software, a GoPro video camera, and a microphone.

Also on this level are two conference rooms, the smaller of which features a table for 15 people and another 70-inch television for presentations. The larger room, being called the community room, can hold bigger gatherings. It also has a TV and a projector. There is a movable partition so the room can be divided.

Neugebauer said many library events will be held in the community room, including a few upcoming music performances. On Feb. 13 there will be Valentine’s Day concerts throughout the day; on Feb. 20 there will be a music and comedy night from 7-8:30 p.m., and on Feb. 27 from 2-4 p.m. there will be a jazz band.

A full list of library events can be found on the library website.

Neugebauer said he hopes everyone in town will appreciate the new building and all it has to offer.

“I hope that people will be able to come in and really enjoy it,” he said. “I think it’ll serve the community well for a very long time.”

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

Thomas Memorial Library Director Kyle Neugebauer in the lobby of the newly renovated Cape Elizabeth building.

The newly renovated Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth features a large children’s area with an architectural ceiling, a storytelling circle and a play area.

Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth reopened Thursday, Feb. 4, after undergoing a $4 million renovation.

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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.
  • Mainer1

    I hope more than 12% of the families use the library, because we are all paying through the nose in property taxes!!!

    • Chew H Bird

      I expect library use to continue to degrade over the following decades as more services are delivered online, books are digitized, and public availability of technology items managed by libraries are spread over additional locations to respond to the entire community rather than centralized.