Everybody has a library story.

I grew up in downtown Lewiston, where my parents earned $29,000 a year to support six of us. Books were my life. Throughout my childhood, the library was my refuge. I loved the librarians who knew my name and what books I might like. I appreciated that they cared. And surely my mother appreciated when one of them called her to gently suggest that maybe I shouldn’t check out Stephen King’s “The Shining” when I was 11. My mom let me take it out anyway.

Now I live in Hallowell, and my family and I regularly go to the Hubbard Free Library. My husband and I love the community of other parents we have met there. I serve on the board of trustees. It is a place full of community that serves so many. It bursts with books and ideas and ways for people in Hallowell to connect with one another. The Hubbard is a much-loved Hallowell institution, both by our community and by people passing through who are drawn to its beauty, presence, and history. Our beloved Hubbard is in serious financial trouble. Last summer, the library closed on Mondays and the trustees openly acknowledged the financial issues to the community. And in true Hallowell fashion, the community rallied and donated over $30,000 to the Hubbard Annual Fund.

Even with the significant increase in public support, the Hubbard still faces a substantial operating deficit in fiscal year 2019. And although the trustees — a group of 10 volunteers — are working hard to build support to keep the Hubbard open, it won’t be enough to close the deficit. As a result, we’ve asked for increased support from the city of Hallowell to help us bring the Hubbard into the future. It is what will keep the library — a community institution — open. The request for additional city funds is meant to be a two-year fix. In the next two years, if the city increases its contribution, the trustees and the community will work together to chart a path to a sustainable future for the Hubbard.

At our April forum about the Hubbard, the Hallowell community was clear — we want more Hubbard. More books, programs, presentations and opportunities to come together to debate topics of common and divergent interest, and to get the latest bestseller. One woman said that the first thing she does when she moves to a community is look for a church and a library. When she saw the Hubbard, she felt like Hallowell was a good place to make her home. The Hubbard is a community institution and it must be treated as such. Its long-term stability is well worth a two-year investment of $60,000.

The Hubbard is a place full of meaning that the community has cherished for generations — and has sustained for over 138 years. The current chapter of the Hubbard’s story is simply that we need to shift our approach to continue to meet the needs of our community and to fund what they want: more Hubbard. And we need a temporary increase in City support to do just that.

The Hallowell City Council is meeting on Monday, June 11, at 6:30 p.m. to vote on whether to increase funding to the Hubbard Free Library. We need our community to come and tell the City Council what we heard loud and clear through increased donations and the recent forum — keep the Hubbard open. Keep this Hallowell institution alive.

Everybody has a library story. My 2-year old daughter is named Elena. Her library story began when I brought her to the library in the early months of her life because I was drowning in significant post-partum depression. I often couldn’t make myself leave the house to go anywhere, but I could bring my daughter to the library. I could do it because a library is like home.

And although the librarians didn’t know it, the connection to the community through them and through the Hubbard is what helped save me. Some of Elena’s first steps were at the library down the central aisle, among books that she would inevitably start yanking off the shelves and throwing onto the floor. And hopefully when Elena is 11 and wants to take out a Stephen King book, she can do it from the Hubbard.

Cara Courchesne is the vice president of the Hubbard Free Library board of trustees. She is a resident of Hallowell and may be reached at: [email protected]

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