WHITEFIELD — The sunflower-yellow building at the top of Grand Army Hill has served at least two groups in its more than 100 years: veterans and farmers. But in recent weeks, a new — possibly overlapping — group of people has been visiting the two-story structure: bookish children and adults.

That’s because a free public library opened recently in the space, which for about a century has housed Arlington Grange No. 528.

Since July 12, volunteers have been operating the library on the first floor every Wednesday and Saturday morning from 10 a.m. to noon. They plan to continue those hours until August. Then the volunteers hope to keep operating the library just on Saturdays, at least through the fall, but maybe longer.

“I was very excited,” said one local parent, Julie Elder, 32, when asked about her reaction to the news that a library was opening. “We go to the Gardiner library every week, which I love, but it’s nice having something so close, and also to have a change in routine. … We read a lot of books.”

On Wednesday morning, Elder was at the library with her 2-year-old daughter, Piper, who was leafing through a coloring book and planting Dora the Explorer stickers on its pages.

About 15 other people were also in the library, which is open only to Whitefield residents and has received roughly 3,000 donated books. There’s something for readers of all ages, including picture books, reference books, novels for adolescents and a mix of classic and newer literature for adults.

Though town officials have talked about starting a public library for many years, the spark for the town’s newest resource was a letter received by the town officials in the winter of 2016. A local boy, Quinn Conroy, wrote the letter to see if local officials would open a library that he could use during the summer.

“Summer is kind of boring when you’re in the country,” Quinn, who is 9, said during an interview Wednesday. “You can’t get books unless you go to Augusta.”

In his letter, Quinn expressed those thoughts and signed it “Your Citizen Quinn.”

The selectmen were receptive to the boy’s idea and initially arranged a meeting with the Whitefield Elementary School principal to discuss keeping the school’s library open for a couple hours every week during the vacation, recalled Sue McKeen, who was on the Select Board then and has been one of the project’s main organizers.

While that was the original plan, it was scrapped last summer because the carpets in the library needed to be replaced, and again this summer because renovation was taking place at the school, McKeen said.

Then members of the Arlington Grange offered their first floor for the library, which opened earlier this month.

“He really made it happen,” said Tony Marple, a Select Board member, referring to Quinn Conroy’s letter. “There had been a lot of talk about it. It had been a discussion off and on for many years. I think Sue was particularly interested, along with (library volunteer) Cheryle Joslyn … and Quinn wrote this letter out of the blue. He said, ‘I’m bored in the summer,’ and that got things going. It was just a great letter. It was so creative. It was so refreshing.”

The town is providing no funding for the library, and volunteers have stocked it with shelves and other supplies that were bought with their own money, McKeen said.

Joslyn, who was in the library Wednesday morning, said groups have donated books to their cause, but that they’re still looking for donations of bookshelves and the pouches that go in the back of library books.

Another volunteer, Debbie Rogers, said they’re looking for ways to raise money to heat the library in fall and, if possible, for the rest of the year.

Rogers, who also is the Arlington Grange secretary, also noted a piece of the building’s history that may have destined it for its latest use.

Before it became the Arlington Grange in 1914, it was built in the late 1800s as a memorial hall for veterans in the Grand Army of the Republic. Those veterans had specific goals for its first floor, according to an article in the Feb. 21, 1884, issue of the Lewiston Journal, which now hangs on one of its walls.

The article states, “The lower story will be used for a public library and Free High School.”

Whether the Arlington Grange ever was put to those uses before now isn’t clear, but now that it is happening, residents are excited.

“If it goes well, we’d like to stay open as much of the year as possible,” McKeen said. “We had a great volunteer turnout. We had a lot of books donated. We’re pretty happy with the way things are going right now, and we love the space.”

Quinn Conroy, who enjoys reading fantasy and fiction, has not been able to make it to the library yet, because of summer camp and a recent bout of sickness. But he looks forward to it, said his mother, Lynnette Conroy.

“I grew up around here,” she said. “There is a sore lack or resources for kids, especially in summer. I honestly couldn’t be more proud that he started this whole thing himself, unprompted.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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