BELGRADE — Christmas may have come early for the Friends of the Belgrade Public Library.

The nonprofit group that has been raising money for a library renovation project received two anonymous donations this month, one from a resident for $50,000 and one from a summer resident for $25,000.

The group also received a $500 grant from Franklin Savings Bank in Farmington and a circulation desk from Hammond Lumber Company.

Those contributions are bringing the group closer to its $300,000 goal, said group president Judy Johnson.

The money-raising effort for a larger library has been going on for two years. Space at the Belgrade Community Center for All Seasons is too small for the 6,700 books in the library’s collection, Johnson said. Half of the collection is housed in a shed behind the building.

Friends of the Belgrade Public Library, which has 100 members, bought a cape on Depot Road owned by the late Paul Hammond for $140,000, she said. Plans call for the home to be converted into a library with one large room and cathedral ceilings. The renovated space will increase the library space from 400 square feet to 1,800 square feet, she said.

“We’re still trying to raise funds, but with the donations we just received this past month and the circulation desk I think we’re going to be reaching our goal in September 2012,” Johnson said. “We now have $250,000. It’s getting really exciting; it really is. It’s a boost we needed. Now people are saying ‘Boy, this is actually going to happen.'”

Twice in the last two years voters overwhelmingly shot down proposals for a new building that would include the town office, library, historical society and food pantry. Johnson said members of her group listened to residents who didn’t want their taxes to go up and raised money on their own.

Boyd Snowden, of Oakland, a structural engineer, will draft a design to reinforce the beams in the Hammond house basement to withstand the weight of the books, Johnson said.

“We’ll be putting the project out to bid, but we want local contractors — everything local,” she said.

Marcia Haigh, the library’s director, said the library is a municipal public agency and the town provides the money for wages and books.

Haigh keeps track of the number of books and movies people borrow. In 2010, 10,505 items were taken out on loan.

“The library just continues to be used,” Haigh said. “It continues to grow.”

As long as the town continues paying the library’s $41,500 operating budget, the Friends group would take on all the costs associated with moving into a bigger space.

Selectman Ernie Rice, a member of Friends, said the town has accepted the group’s approach for a larger library.

“I would say it’s a very good arrangement for the town of Belgrade,” Rice said. “I think they’re doing a fantastic job. The quality of people willing to donate their time and efforts, and to be as successful as they have been, has been a real plus for the town.”

But not everyone is happy to see the library move to a new location.

Frances Willey, of Oakland, wants the library to stay right where it is, half a mile from Belgrade Lakes village on Route 27, and a few miles north of the intersection of routes 135, 8 and 11 to North Belgrade and Oakland. She said the current location is convenient.

“I’ll really miss having the library right here,” Willey said. “I look forward to coming to this library,” she said, even though she’s from out of town and has to pay extra for it.

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

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