Falmouth library hits midway point in funding for expansion

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FALMOUTH — When residents overwhelmingly approved a bond to expand Falmouth Memorial Library in 2014, it was with the understanding that half the $5.62 million cost would be raised by the library.

On June 12, library staff and board members will stop private solicitations and open the fundraising campaign to the public.

But the project is no longer just an expansion.

“It’s a transformation,” Marsha Clark, president of the library’s board of trustees, said last week.

Clark said the new library has been designed to be flexible and efficient, and will be a place where people can connect. She said the existing space isn’t meeting the needs of the community.

“They want more places to meet” and more programming, she said.

The building will increase from 10,700 square feet to nearly 18,000 square feet. The new space will include more natural light; a quiet reading room; more space for the collection; additional public computers and a more user-friendly environment for personal devices; a larger children’s area; a dedicated space for teenagers; more group study and meeting areas, and dedicated common areas for people to gather.

Director Andi Jackson-Darling said the new space will mean more opportunities for people to connect. The increased meeting spaces will accommodate training groups and allow people who work from home to have a place to come to.

“You need those human connections,” she said.

She added the new library would not equal an increase in the cost for energy because the new roof will be built to allow solar panels.

Clark said there will be a daylight basement as well, but it will remain unfinished for the time being. While it will likely be used for storage at first, she said it has the potential for future 5,000 square foot expansion. Additionally, the shelving can be moved around to allow for community events.

In addition to needed space for programming, the facilities also needed upgrades. Clark said during heavy rains, the roof leaks in the older parts of the building, and the basement floods. She said Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth – both smaller than Falmouth – have expanded to have “significantly bigger libraries.” Clark said the Falmouth Memorial Library “is sorely lacking.”

“It’s time for us to bring this library into the future,” Clark said.

Jim Hauptman, vice president of the board of trustees, said the public phase of fundraising begins June 12 with a community celebration from 1-4 p.m. at the library. He said the board has raised almost half of what was needed during the quiet phase, in which they reached out to large donors and businesses and sought out grants. The board has until Dec. 31 to finish raising the needed $2.81 million.

Clark said the plan is for construction to begin in March or April, with an anticipated construction time of 10 months to a year. During that time, library operations will move to another location. It is anticipated that the reopening will be in 2018, which coincides with the town’s tercentennial celebration.

The seemingly smooth path towards the renovation project is a contrast to 2011, when voters rejected a plan for the library to move to the Lunt School building on Lunt Road. Clark said there were several reasons why voters turned down the plan, including the poor economy, confusing language in the referendum, and not wanting the library to move.

“We have ensured a future here,” Clark said, later adding that the proposal “went from a very good project to a great project.”

Hauptman said while it was “bumpy out of the gates” last time around, a library is much more than just a place for books, and there is a need for space for “meeting and thinking and programming.”

“We can’t do what the community needs in these four walls,” he said. “It’s just time.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

A major expansion of the Falmouth Memorial Library was approved by voters in 2014 at a cost of $5.6 million. Half of the money was raised privately by the library; June 12 marks the beginning of an appeal to the public for funds.

The Falmouth Memorial Library will be expanded from 10,700 square feet to nearly 18,000 square feet. Many of the rooms, like the staff kitchen, have become places for storage.

The basement of Falmouth Memorial Library on Depot Road floods during heavy rains.

The new library will cost a total of $5.6 million.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.