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Falmouth library hires architect, begins planning for renovation

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Falmouth library hires architect, begins planning for renovation

FALMOUTH — Trustees have hired an architect to redesign Falmouth Memorial Library after rejecting a proposal in April to move the library to the former Plummer School on Middle Road.

The board selected Scott Simons Architects of Portland to develop a preliminary design for expanding the library at its current location on Lunt Road.

The firm, which redesigned the Portland Public Library in 2010, is expected have the design ready by November, which will be followed by a feasibility study. Cost estimates for the project are still premature, library Director Andi Jackson-Darling said.

The Town Council appropriated $25,000 for the design in June.

While the library is structurally in good shape, the strong growth in services and programming has pushed the available space to the limit, Jackson-Darling said.

"We've done some flipping around in the past year and a half or so, but we need more space to be comfortable," she said.

The library, which was originally a home built in 1908, has had a few additions, with the latest in 1994. In 2012, staff rearranged sections of the library, added shelving and moved furniture.

Library officials say circulation numbers underscore the growing demands of library patrons.

In the last decade, lending of traditional books, audio books, e-books and other items has grown from about 146,000 borrowings in 2002, to 205,000 in 2012, according to library figures.

The library saw a tremendous increase in circulation from 2008-2009, jumping 16,500 items. Jackson-Darling attributes the increase to the recession, which ballooned demand for library services across the country, she said.

To accommodate patron's needs, offices have been consolidated and areas such as the lunch room have been turned into work and storage spaces.

There is now about an inch of standing water in much of the basement, eating up additional storage space.

After the flooding began, the library was forced to end its practice of maintaining a collection of duplicates, which was stored in the basement. This caused a spike in inter-library loans, one of the biggest growth areas, Jackson-Darling said. The library is now lending about 1,200 items every month through the program.

One of the busiest times during the week is on Friday for children's programming, which brings in an average of 40 kids and their parents, said Jeannie Madden, head of user services. Sometimes it can be as many as 100.

Meeting space is also in short supply, Madden said, noting that rooms often have to be booked about three months in advance.

In addition to lending reading materials, CDs and movies, the library also has less traditional items available for borrowing, including a telescope, ukuleles, video cameras and a Kill A Watt energy detector.

Officials hope to expand their technology offerings using grants to fund Apple computers for use in an instructional lab, Jackson-Darling said.

The town will also host neighborhood meetings once the renovation plans are further developed, seeking input from community members about changes they would like to see at the library.

About 75 percent of the library's budget is taxpayer-funded. The remainder is raised through donations.

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or wgraff@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.