NORRIDGEWOCK — Crowded old shelves of books once blocked sunlight from coming in the windows at the Sophie May Library, but thanks to a recent $45,000 face-lift, the rooms in the library are now neat and orderly, with lots of space and sunlight in the historic building.

“We wanted to revitalize the library and make it more appealing and more accessible to the public,” said Sallie Wilder, chairwoman of the Norridgewock Library board of trustees, as she stood inside the refurbished library Thursday afternoon. “It was just not organized and not accessible to people before.”

The small library, which is one of two branches of the Norridgewock Public Library, was closed for about a year as it underwent renovation paid for by two grants from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation and a library trust fund. It re-opened to the public this winter, and an open house is planned for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, the same time that the town also will host an open house at the new Norridgewock fire station on Upper Main Street.

The Sophie May Library is named for children’s book author Rebecca Sophia Clarke, who went by the pen name Sophie May. The name came about when Clarke, who lived in Norridgewock from 1833 to 1906, began writing and said that she “may or may not write a book,” according to Wilder. Today her portrait hangs over a fireplace in the library entrance.

Clarke wrote 43 books in her lifetime, many copies of which are available at the Sophie May Library, including her best known series, Dotty Dimple and Little Prudy. When she died in 1906, the building was donated to the town with the stipulation that it be turned into a library.

It served as the primary library for the town until 2009, when the 40 Mercer Road building was donated to the town by School Administrative District 54. Today the Sophie May Library houses the town’s historical and genealogical records as well as its collection of Maine history books and books by Maine authors.

There is a large collection of Civil War correspondence books, including notes and letters written by Union and Confederate soldiers, historical scrapbooks and a copy of Father Sebastian Rasle’s translation of the Native American Abnaki language into French, first published in 1833.

After the acquisition of the second library building in 2009, the town began a small renovation of the Sophie May building. They received two grants from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation totaling $29,508 and also used a $25,467 library trust fund to pay for the renovations, which included installing new lights in the 176-year-old building, repainting the walls, knocking down a back wall to add more space and installing new metal bookshelves.

“It was so crowded before that you would ask yourself, ‘What good is it?'” said Gloria Frederick, vice chairwoman of the library board of trustees. “We’ve really put a lot of effort into it, and we’re proud of the fact that we didn’t have to use any taxpayer money.”

Retired Maine State Police Trooper Dennis Hayden will be at the open house Saturday to sign copies of the children’s book “The Adventures of Trooper Hayden and Skipper: Maine’s First State Police K-9 Unit,” written by his daughter, Jennifer Deering, about her father’s job as a state police trooper and Maine’s first police dog. The library also is giving away 25 copies of the book to children.

Librarian Kent Sinclair, who keeps regular hours at the library each Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., said he is also happy with the renovation and hopes people come to the open house to see what’s new.

“I hope people come see the old library, which many of them grew up with, and see how it’s changed — hopefully for the better,” he said.

The library still has about $9,000 left from the grant money and trust fund. Frederick and Wilder said there are more projects they’d like to see done at the Sophie May building, including the renovation of a back room, currently used for storage, that could further expand the library.

They also hope to keep the library open for more hours in the future, particularly in the summer, when, they said, many people from away come to do genealogical research. The library includes genealogical records from Norridgewock and other communities in Maine.

“You never know when you might be interested in your family’s history,” Wilder said. “If people don’t know anything about genealogy or they want to delve into it, it’s a good resource, and our librarian would love to help them out.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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