Oliver Watson-Moody, right, tells Sue McKeen about his plan Saturday to paint his pumpkin as Star Wars character Darth Vader at the Whitefield Library and Community Center’s inaugural Fall Festival. Jessica Lowell/Kennebec Journal

WHITEFIELD — Oliver Watson-Moody’s focus late Saturday morning was on the pumpkin he was painting black.

He and his younger brother, Henry, were standing, armed with paint brushes, at table full of pumpkins at the Whitefield Library and Community Center’s Fall Festival, while their youngest brother, Guthrie, sat nearby tucked in his stroller.

Around them, community residents gathered for hot chili, cold cider and live music at what the volunteers behind the project to establish a library in Whitefield say will become an annual fundraising event to support the library.

On Saturday, the focus of the volunteers’ efforts stood closed off to the public for a little while longer. After spending months on the first phase of a planned renovation the former Arlington Grange, they had expected to have an occupancy permit in hand from the Office of State Fire Marshal that would allow the public to see the results of their labors.

That delay didn’t dampen the spirits of dozens of people who stopped by to visit with neighbors, see the goats, buy heritage bulbs and enjoy what’s likely to be one of the last outdoor events of the season.

“When the library was open pre-COVID, we really enjoyed it very much,” Annie Watson, Oliver’s mother, said. “We can’t wait to see the expansion and all the work that went into it.”


While Oliver was turning the round, orange squash into Darth Vader, Watson said she brought her sons to the library for story time about once a week.

“It’s amazing what the community can do when they pull together,” she said.

From her station at the popcorn machine, Cheryle Joslyn said this first phase of their renovation project is the result of a year and a half of work by a cadre of dedicated volunteers, all retirees, and a contractor hired to add to the building’s structural support.

Joslyn, who is the chairwoman of the Renovation Committee, said they have completed the carpentry, insulation, painting and trim work inside.

“We moved everything out of the library in June 2020, and it took us less than a year to have the interior complete enough to move everything back in,” she said. “Once we got everything back in and had new bookshelves installed, the Book Committee was able to come in and work on cataloging our book system in May. They just finished.”

Joslyn said she paid a visit to the fire marshal on Friday, but she came away without the permit. The state’s building boom coupled with a shortage of workers has delayed issuing permits.


“We intend to open as soon as the ink dries,” she said, with a laugh.

Once that’s done, along with a few other tasks in their first phase plans like adding an emergency exit and outside staircase for the second floor, the volunteers will embark on the second phase of their project, reclaiming the upper floor as a community space. That work will include removing the dropped ceiling tiles to reveal the original ceiling and plaster medallion and adding.

The community space is important to the non-profit library because renting the upper floor will give the organization an income stream to support the library.

In the longer term, the volunteers are working toward becoming  a Maine State Library, which brings with it a host of benefits. That initiative will take more work and planning, including being open year-round at least 12 hours a week and having a library administrator who is paid or receives a stipend.

“We have a couple of people in the community who have stepped up to the plate and are working on getting librarian certification,” she said.

Joslyn said at the start of the project, the budget was estimated at about $75,000, but the spending to date has surpassed that. In addition to construction, the money has gone to a new heating system, insulating the the foundation, wiring the building, adding WiFi, and securing used shelving from state government surplus and other sources.


The Arlington Grange, built in 1884, was the meeting hall for the Whitefield chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Civil War veterans. During its life, it also served as a school.

The library opened in 2017, after second-grader Quinn Conroy, faced with the prospect of a long summer with little to do, wrote a letter to the Whitefield Board of Selectmen asking for a library to fill that void.

At that time, grange officials offered use of space in their building; later the library organization was able to buy the building from the Maine State Grange for $26,000. Whitefield’s grange dissolved in 2018.

Funds to support the library have come from grants and donations from Kennebec Savings Bank, Bangor Savings Bank and area residents.

“People are recognizing that we have accomplished what we said we would do,” Joslyn said. “When people see that, they are more than willing to step up and contribute to being a part of it.”

She said there have been times she thought the project might stall from a lack of commitment and the lack of motivation to keep going. Those moments haven’t lasted for very long because people have come along to offer help.

When the library opens again, it will serve residents of Whitefield and all its surrounding towns.

While the library has not sought any funding from Whitefield town government, Roslyn said there may come a time when they ask for some support.

“We’ve got to keep our doors open, and that means we need to pay for our fuel,” she said.

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