If you make only one resolution for 2015, it should be: Read a book. And perhaps a second resolution could be: support your local library.
I am saddened every time a small local library closes — and there have been too many in Maine lately. For every Lithgow Library enjoying a large expansion, three small libraries close. The problems are many, including a lack of funding and support from towns suffering from increased costs and significant decreases in state funding.
Last September, an article by Bob Keyes in this newspaper was headlined, “Rural Maine libraries on borrowed time as towns seek ways to save tax dollars. Taxpayers are unwilling or unable to pay the bills, and changing technology and lifestyles drive patrons to larger libraries that offer more services and conveniences.”
Free books, volunteers and fundraisers, which have kept many rural libraries in Maine from going out of business, were not enough to save the century-old North Bridgton Public Library, reported Keyes. Last summer, the library board voted to cease operations effective Dec. 31 because it cannot afford to stay open. It joins libraries in Buxton, North Monmouth and Otis that have closed in recent years.
“It’s very sad,” Susan Cole, treasurer of the North Bridgton Public Library, told Keyes. “Our library is done.”
Sad doesn’t begin to describe it.
Libraries that are unable to keep up with technology are particularly susceptible to failure. Keyes reported that 29 percent of Maine libraries are not automated. Here’s a good example of how that works.
The Dr. Shaw Memorial Library, serving the towns of Mount Vernon and Vienna, offers everything from computers and Wi-Fi to audio books and movies. And the library subscribes to a service that allows patrons to download books for free. I was in the library last Saturday when a woman told me about a friend and mother of small children who lives and works in Nepal and who is — as a patron of our library — downloading books to read for free. Our small library reaches worldwide.
I thoroughly enjoyed the column by Liz Soares last week about her observations as a librarian. While I was growing up in Winthrop, long-time librarian Mrs. Dow was an important person to me: welcoming, helpful and kind. I learned to love the library — and books — at a very early age, partly thanks to Mrs. Dow, who I have never forgotten.
I’ve been a trustee of the Dr. Shaw library for 35 years — my all-time favorite local government position — partly because I have very little to do and I get a key so I can get in anytime I want. Our librarians — Alice, Mary Anne and Ann — along with a wonderful group of volunteers do an amazing job.
Our library is a gathering place for the community — and especially for our kids. From musical mornings with Dan Simons to birdwatching and mushrooming, the library offers something for everyone. And it warms my heart to see children in the library, reading a book.
We’re actually tackling a major expansion in 2015. For us, that means one additional room attached to the old home Dr. Shaw left the town. My job has been to lead the fundraising campaign (with help from the other trustees) — probably because I’m the only one who actually enjoys asking people for money.
I’ve reached out to nearby libraries, including Winthrop and Wayne, for help in identifying grant opportunities, but I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the wonderful generosity of our patrons in their response to our first mailed fundraising request. Yes, the people of Mount Vernon and Vienna love their library.
Even though I buy a lot of books, and get a lot of free books to review, I also spend a lot of time in libraries from the State Library in Augusta to Lubec’s awesome library way Downeast. Since my book was published last March, I’ve had a lot of fun doing book talks at libraries throughout the state. It’s just so enjoyable spending an evening with people who love books as much as I do.
One Jan. 1, when daughter Hilary was a small child, she made a resolution to read 52 books — one per week — in the next year. And she did it.
You may not have the time to read 52 books in 2015. But start with one. And it doesn’t have to be mine.