CAPE ELIZABETH — An East Waterboro man has been chosen from close to 40 people who applied to be the new director at Thomas Memorial Library.
Kyle Neugebauer was hired this week and is scheduled to start Jan. 16. The Town Council is expected to approve the hire on Dec. 14.
“I’m just excited to get started,” Neugebauer, who currently works as an adult services librarian at Walker Memorial Library in Westbrook, said. “I’m going to bring a lot of ideas and enthusiasm.”
Of the who applied, six were interviewed by phone, and two were brought in for interviews with a search committee. Town Manager Mike McGovern led the committee, which included one library staff member, one town department head, two nominees from the library board of trustees and two town citizens.
“(Neugebauer) brings new energy and innovation to a new library,” McGovern said, referring to a $4 million library renovation, which was approved in a November 2014 referendum.
Also, Neugebauer has experience as a library director, as he held the position for four years at Algona Public Library in Algona, Iowa.
Neugebauer’s start date coincides with the retirement of Jay Scherma, who announced in June he would be leaving after 20 years with the library. Scherma’s last day will be Jan. 22, which will give him time to train Neugebauer.
The renovated library is scheduled to open Feb. 8.
While the renovations have been taking place, the library has been temporarily housed in the adjacent Spurwink School. Both buildings will be closed for the entire month of January and the first week of February while the transition to the new library is made.
Library patrons will be able to use the South Portland and Scarborough public libraries during this time. Any books checked out of Thomas Memorial Library at the end of December won’t be due back until the new library opens, but can be returned in the drop off box or at one of the neighboring towns’ libraries.
Scherma said the 20,000 books currently at the Spurwink School will be moved to the new library first and will be followed by the 35,000 that have been in storage. A moving crew will transfer the books to the new library and library staff and volunteers will shelve them.
Scherma said it’s been difficult operating out of a small space with fewer than half the books that staff and patrons are used to.
“It’s been a challenge for staff and patrons alike,” he said. “It’s been a matter of reducing the collection strategically and providing people with the books they want.”
Scherma said patrons have seemed happy with the selection, but the use of inter-library loans has increased over the past year. He said the staff has handled the year well, though.
“The staff has dealt remarkably well with the conditions,” he said. “We were able to continue with all of our offerings.”
Neugebauer said he wants to create even more offerings once the library reopens. He said he has some ideas, but wasn’t ready to share them yet. He said at first he’ll just focus on working with Scherma and the other library staff on “welcome programs” to show patrons the renovations.
Neugebauer said he also wants to get to know patrons and let them get to know him. He said something he wants library-goers to know is that he’s very passionate about the work.
“I definitely bring a passion for libraries,” he said. “Libraries are vital in the communities they serve.”
He said this is true in Cape Elizabeth and it’s part of what drew him to the position.
“I really like the community in Cape Elizabeth,” Neugebauer said. “It has a good sense of community and is very supportive of the library, as evidenced by the beautiful new facility.”
Scherma agreed that the new library will be beautiful, and said all the trouble patrons and staff have had to deal with over the past year will be worth it when they see the new building.
“I think the payoff on the other end of the obstacle course will be worth it,” he said. “It’ll be quite, quite patron-friendly and very handsome.”
Thomas Memorial Library, which has been temporarily housed in the Spurwink School (left) for the past year, is being renovated and is expected to reopen in February.