WHITEFIELD — It all started when 7-year-old Quinn Conroy wrote a letter to the Whitefield Select Board asking it consider putting a library in town.

Conroy, now a high school student, wanted something to do in the summer, when he was out of school.

Sue McKeen was a Select Board member when Conroy’s letter came through in 2016, and is now president of the Whitefield Library Association’s board of directors.

To members of the community, Conroy’s idea was one many residents had supported for a while, given Whitefield and surrounding communities did not have a public library.

“Sometimes, the best ideas are put into action by something as small as that,” McKeen said. “Putting that No. 2  pencil onto paper and sending it to the Select Board — that’s how it all started.”

The volunteers got to work and now — this weekend — The Whitefield Library & Community Center is set to open at 1 Arlington Lane from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, after almost two years of renovations.

The library first opened in the summer of 2017 and closed for the winter because it did not have a proper heating system.

It reopened the next summer, with more books and more volunteers, and became a nonprofit that met Maine State Library regulations.

In 2018, the Arlington Grange, where the library is located in the basement, could not maintain the building and sold it to the library for $25,000, paid with a grant from Kennebec Saving Bank.

Eventually, McKeen said, the upstairs of the building is to be used as a community center for meetings, art shows and perhaps small theater performances on the grange’s stage. For now, however, the library is to be open year-round after installing a proper heating system and finishing the renovations for the building to become an official library.

McKeen credited volunteers and donations for helping the Whitefield Library evolve over the past two years, during which it underwent renovations. She said about 80 people on the email list are involved with the library and some 30 volunteers work in a variety of ways to support the facility.

From May to November of 2021, Martha Tait catalogued more than 6,000 books into a computer system to keep track of the library’s books and their value. Since the library does not have an official librarian running it yet, volunteers, including Tait, have stepped up to learn.

Tait said before cataloguing books electronically, the library catalogued them the “old-fashioned way,” with stamps, tags and book pockets, but did not know what the library had in its collection.

“We all had to start from scratch,” Tait said. “The book committee was only five people, and we had little experience. We learned from the ground up. It was a big learning curve, but we did it, and learned a lot.”

Tait, who came out of retirement to help, said it feels like a “goal achieved to have the doors open for the public.”

The “Geezer Gang,” as some of the volunteers call themselves, consists of five to 10 people over age 70 who helped on the restoration throughout the two years. McKeen said they showed up whenever needed and donated time, materials and hard work.

“It’s really amazing,” McKeen said. “In a time where no one can find volunteers, these people came together in this town to do this thing, and a lot of times they were running around in masks in 95 degree weather (or) when it was freezing cold and they’re still going. They have a little more work to do.”

Cheryle Joslyn of Whitefield said she raised her children in town and wanted a library, dating back to the 1970s and 1980s, when her children were young. She was part of McKeen’s original group of volunteers, and later joined the “Geezer Gang” for the restoration process.

Joslyn’s goals were to help the library expand, increase services and have a library technician to run the building.

“It’s a wonderful feeling of accomplishment,” she said. “It brings great joy it’s something we can do for the community of Whitefield and all surrounding neighborhoods, as well. Alna, Pittston, Jefferson and Windsor, who don’t have a library, are welcome to use it, and it’s a great feeling.”


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