Our libraries are important places in our communities, and it saddens me that some have closed and others are struggling. Hallowell’s library, for example, is in a vibrant community, but it is struggling financially and has been gathering ideas for resolving that problem.

Meanwhile, in Winslow, exciting things are happening at the library, partly thanks to a $97,000 donation from Kenneth and Shirley Eskelund. I was especially pleased to learn that they’ve hired a new youth programmer to boost offerings to the town’s children.

In Whitefield, the library is purchasing the Grange hall, which now houses the library. And it is making that purchase without town funding. Impressive.

I did book talks in a bunch of libraries around the state, and every one impressed me, especially those that are thriving in small rural towns, from Wayne to Lubec. When we’re visiting Lubec and Campobello, my wife, Linda, and I always spend time in the Lubec library, a wonderful, friendly place. Their kids’ section is particularly impressive.

Libraries are especially important to children. My sister, Edie, brother Gordon and I spent lots of time in the Winthrop library growing up. I was particularly pleased — and impressed — when I did a book talk in the new section of the Winthrop library and learned that the old library is now completely dedicated to kids’ books and events.

I love seeing a kid leaving the Mount Vernon library with an armload of books. Our library sponsors great children’s events, and it is always busy in the children’s room. One reason we decided to expand our library is because we need more space for the kids.

I’ve been a trustee of our Dr. Shaw Memorial Library for almost four decades — it’s my very favorite government job. Our library serves the people of Mount Vernon and Vienna. Dr. Shaw left the town his house and office in the 1930s to serve as a library, and in the last year, we tackled a major expansion.

I raised a lot of the money for the expansion, and some people were impressed that I could raise so much money. But I’ve been raising money for 50 years — and I love asking people for money, because they give it to you.

I discovered that there’s a lot of funding available for libraries. Steve and Tabitha King’s foundation gave us $50,000, and Bob Fuller’s family Windover Foundation also gave us $50,000. And we received grants from a variety of others, from Kennebec Savings Bank to the Maine Humanities Council.

We raised almost $450,000, with $101,438 from library patrons. Mount Vernon also contributed $100,000.

Eighty percent of our individual donors were our summer people. They love the library. Many have no Wi-Fi at their camps, so they use the library’s. I’d often see them parked in our driveway, when the library was closed, scrunched up in their cars with their computers. So we built a beautiful screened in porch where they can sit to access their computers when the library is closed.

The expansion is an impressive two stories with an elevator and a great new meeting room where we will host book talks and other events. And a large section of the old library is now kids’ space.

Our walls feature beautiful artwork, thanks to the Elizabeth Philbrick Fund, and the leadership of trustee Fred Webber. Fred also was in charge of construction, and we were pleased when all the contractors were local people.

We are especially blessed by awesome librarians and volunteers. The library is a busy place, and while the towns of Mount Vernon and Vienna contribute to our annual budget, we also receive generous funding from our patrons.

Our library offers lots of services, from computers and copiers to connections to the state library downloadable e-book program, and I think it’s important for libraries to do this. And we have one of the biggest annual book budgets of all of Maine’s small rural libraries.

We also feature books by Maine authors. For a couple years, I’ve been writing book reviews for five Maine publishers, and that has been a wonderful experience. Maine is blessed with lots of great writers. I’m particularly impressed with the children’s books, which have great stories and amazing illustrations. You can read my reviews on my website, www.georgesmithmaine.com.

I donate most of the review books to our library, and a few go to the Lubec library. Of course, some of those children’s books go to our young granddaughters. And yes, it pleases me that the girls love their library in Massachusetts.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.