GARDINER — The Gardiner Public Library has 44,000 volumes in its book collection, access to countless e-books and audible books, 3,000 music CDs, a newly completed Community Archives Room and Maine’s 2015 Outstanding Librarian in Library Director Anne Davis.

News of Davis’ award came as a surprise to her last week, because the nomination process is secret, and Davis said she’d had no hint she had been nominated until her selection was announced.

“It’s a very big honor,” Davis said.

Each year the Maine Library Association fields nominations for outstanding librarian from across the state, and a committee evaluates them based on demonstrated professional achievement and service to the Maine library community.

Across the board, Davis led the nominees, Marcela Peres, MLA Communications Committee chairwoman, said.

“It’s a well-deserved honor,” Peres said. “She’s very highly regarded.”

Davis has been a member of the association for as long as she has been a librarian, serving as the organization’s president and legislative chairwoman.

“The MLA keeps us all connected and makes sure all of us are on the same professional page,” she said. “It’s nice to have the affirmation of the association.”

In the 25 years since she started working at the Gardiner library, technology has changed many aspects of how the public interacts with information.

“There are students who don’t have a concept of original research,” she said, because the volume of information that’s now available on the Internet means very few people track down original documents.

The proliferation of e-book readers has resulted in libraries offering access to books in that format, and now in addition to CDs, library patrons can now or soon will be able to download music and movies via a library subscription service.

What hasn’t changed is the need for libraries to defend their budgets and their place in the community.

Davis said people have believed that libraries would remain open in towns across New England, but that hasn’t been the case. Shrinking budgets have meant curtailing operations at some libraries and consolidation for others. The Gardiner Public Library serves Gardiner, Litchfield, Pittston, Randolph, West Gardiner and Farmingdale.

“My biggest fight in the Legislature has been to maintain revenue sharing to municipalities,” she said.

Protecting municipal revenues is one of the surest ways to preserve library budgets, she said.

In his nomination letter, Tom Abbott, a member of the trustees of the Gardiner Public Library representing West Gardiner, said the Gardiner building has not escaped budget cuts, but has continued to succeed with less money and “with a strong Library Association which owns and maintains the building and the benefit of several successful grants for renovations — a new elevator, a new roof, a renovated Children’s Room and most recently the beautiful renovation of the archives room.”

Davis doesn’t begrudge the work because she sees the reward.

“People should be able to come into the library and have the opportunity to spend some time in a beautiful space,” she said. “They don’t need to look at me tearing my hair out.”

Despite budget challenges and changing technology, Davis said one thing remains constant.

“Anything you do in a library is confidential,” she said. “We are obliged by state statute. A librarian is very discreet.”

That’s important, particularly for young people who have questions about health or gender. She’d rather they come to libraries with questions than see them rely on information they find on the Internet, which may not be reliable.

All Davis’ successes belie the almost offhand way she stumbled into her career.

She saw an advertisement for a library aide in Gardiner and thought she would apply to tide her over. Her plan had been to use her degree in American history to work in historic preservation.

“I needed a job, and they needed someone who knew computers,” Davis said. “I thought I would keep that job a couple of months until I could get a real job. I never left, and I hope to end my working days here.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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