Lithgow Public Library and its programs and services are more important than ever. Visits are at an all-time high, and the library must be modernized in order to more effectively serve the community.
Voters on June 10 will determine whether to borrow $8 million, without a tax increase, to expand and renovate the library.
The current facility is inaccessible, user unfriendly and fails to meet standards of the Americans with Disabilities law. These problems would be eliminated with approval of the “Save Lithgow” referendum, which would transform the library with a ground-level entrance and a modern, flexible layout. It is time.
The new reality in Augusta is that two-thirds of the students in its schools qualify for free or reduced lunches. The technology many of us take for granted is not readily available to those students, and books are often lacking in their lives. An expansion of both space and programs would allow Lithgow to help bridge the gap.
Veterans and job seekers without access to technology now wait in line for computers so that they can gather information and apply for jobs. An expanded Lithgow will eliminate the lines and open up opportunity.
Is the word “save” overly dramatic? Not really. The 1979 addition has always served a limited role. Now systems, especially the elevator, are failing and upgrading would create only more problems. The elevator does not meet current building code standards and would have to be larger if it were replaced, bringing into play a whole new set of issues. The new layout will be safer for everyone who uses the library, especially children, and this is not possible with the current layout.
Everything stated above is important, but in the end there are many more reasons why people are donating time and money to the Lithgow campaign. A vibrant, modern Lithgow Library will serve the community for generations to come with:
• Expanded children’s programming.
• Dedicated young adult area.
• Much-needed community meeting space.
• Digital & technology literacy for all ages.
• Increased assistance for veterans and job seekers.
• Enhanced cultural opportunities and experiences.
• School and social readiness for young children.
• Dedicated space for literacy volunteers.
During the last 20 years, Augusta has been rediscovered and transformed. One major project after another has been envisioned, planned and completed: a new City Hall, new elementary schools, new Cony High School, a thriving university, a third bridge, a new YMCA, a world-class cancer center, a children’s museum, Children’s Center, new state-of-the-art hospital.
This list is a marvel; each one of these projects became a reality because people joined together to support a common vision. Lithgow Library will be the capstone to this renaissance.
Although there has been consensus about the need for a renovated and expanded library, many people feared that it would be so expensive that it would place a burden on already stressed taxpayers. Because the city is well-managed and in a sound financial place, however, the bond being voted on June 10 will enable the project to be funded without raising taxes. This is possible because there has been a true public-private partnership and substantial private fundraising, which will continue until the goals are met. The Friends of Lithgow Library has raised more than $2.3 million in cash and pledges, and has pledged to raise a total of $3 million for the project.
This endeavor has become very personal for me and everyone supporting Lithgow. As a business owner and local resident, I would like to give something back to this community that has been good to me. The same is true for all of the people most active in the campaign.
As we advocate for the project, we find Lithgow stories everywhere we go. The library has been changing lives for more than 100 years, and we now have the honor of preparing it for the next 100.
Please join us and vote “yes” on June 10.
Charles “Wick” Johnson, of Augusta, has owned Kennebec Technologies since 1984. He has been a member of the Augusta Board of Trade and the Augusta Good Government Committee and served 10 years on the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. He and Laurel Coleman are co-chairmen of the Lithgow Campaign Committee.