AUGUSTA — The half-ton white steel beam bearing the names of Lithgow Public Library supporters swung smoothly toward the gable atop what will be the main entrance to the renovated Lithgow Public Library.

The topping out ceremony Monday featured both a 48-star flag — found in the attic of the historic library building — and a newer American flag. The 48-star flag was in use from 1912-1959.

About three dozen people, mostly in white plastic hard hats and fluorescent yellow work vests, watched and applauded as Charles “Wick” Johnson, wearing a harness as he stood in an aerial lift, put the final bolt in place.

“This is very exciting, but not as exciting as the ribbon-cutting will be,” said Elizabeth Pohl, library director. “It’s wonderful to see all the steel up after it being a concept for so long.”

The three-story steel skeleton with multiple gables outlines the city’s library of the future, one which merges the granite block structure that opened in 1896 at Winthrop and State streets with an addition that triples its size.

“It’s a tribute to the way this community operates and the way people have come together time after time,” said Johnson shortly before taking the safety training that allowed him to ride the bucket in the lift truck. Johnson, co-chairman of the Lithgow Library Capital Campaign and also a board member of the Friends of Lithgow Library, is president and CEO of Kennebec Technologies.

The Friends of Lithgow Library, a nonprofit fundraising group supporting the building, pledged to raise $3 million privately to match the city’s $8 million share, which is being funded with short-term money saved by refinancing public employee pension debt.

The $11 million library expansion and renovation is expected to be completed next August with the library moving back into the space in September 2016.

“We’re hoping to finish it before August,” said Nick Morgan, project manager for JF Scott Construction of Winthrop, the general contractor. About 25 workers are on site currently with that workforce expected to double next spring.

So far, a concrete block structure houses the future elevator shaft.

“Right now it looks like we’ll have a permanently dry, weather-tight building in January,” Morgan said. “It’s not ideal, but it’s better than doing concrete work in winter.”

The new gables will serve as an attic and mask some air handling equipment. Construction workers have boarded up some windows on the existing building to protect stained glass windows, some of which have been removed for restoration.

The ground-breaking ceremony for the project was held May 14.

Rae Ann French, first appointed to the Lithgow Library Building Committee in 2006 and later serving as chairman of that committee, said, “It’s been a long time coming.”

She added, “Augusta’s going to be pleased with the buildings, and I think it’s going to serve the public well.”

While the construction is underway at the library’s permanent home, the temporary location in the Ballard Center — the former site of MaineGeneral Medical Center on East Chestnut Street — is bustling.

“It’s a nice home for us,” Pohl said. “If we can’t be here, we’re awfully lucky to have such a nice place.”

In the city’s 2014 annual report, the library reported an average of 10,000 visits per month and a circulation of 166,520 items.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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