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TOPSHAM — Christmas came a few days early this year for the Topsham Public Library, in the form of what is likely its greatest gift ever.
The literature and multimedia hub on Dec. 19 announced it had received a $770,000 bequest from the estate of Janice Solomon, a former Topsham resident who lived at the Highland Green retirement community.
While library trustees decide what to do with the funds – which happen to match TPL’s current annual budget – they have invested the donation with the Maine Community Fund as they develop the library’s 2020-2023 long-range strategic plan.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime gift,” Susan Preece, the library director, said Dec. 20. “And so it would behoove us to really be thoughtful about how we’re going to move forward with it.”
Solomon, who died last year, left no stipulations for how the library could use the money.
“We walk around pinching ourselves, (asking) did that really happen?” Preece said. “It’s amazing and very humbling.”
Solomon, a frequent patron for several years, was a private person, and library staff had no idea TPL would be one of three entities to benefit equally from her bequests, Preece noted. But the interactions Solomon had at the library clearly resonated with her, and a library press release noted she told a friend she “felt safe and welcomed” while she was there.
“I keep saying over and over again, it’s the staff,” Preece said. “It comes from the fact that the staff is so amazing here.”
The library will honor Solomon posthumously early next year with its annual Sarah Whitten Community Award. The honor is named for a woman who donated her family home to the library in 1941.
Next year marks TPL’s 15th year at its 25 Foreside Road location. Preece has been there almost the entire time, and Solomon’s is the largest donation she’s seen the library receive.
“As a library director, it’s the kind of thing that you dream about,” Preece said. “… It is an amazing game-changer for the library.”
“I feel a huge responsibility to make sure that we live up to the faith that she put in us, and also to our community,” the director added. “Because it was a gift to the library, but it was (also) a gift to the community.”
Susan Preece, director of the Topsham Public Library, said she and her staff and trustees are deeply grateful for what she calls a “once-in-a-lifetime” bequeathment of $770,000.