Nick Perry, right, helps patron Justin Neill on Monday at the Bailey Public Library desk in Winthrop. A race for seats on the town library’s board of trustees will be contested for the first time in over 10 years. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

WINTHROP —  A race for seats on the Winthrop library’s board of trustees will be contested for the first time in over 10 years.

Four candidates are vying for three open spots on the municipal board, and many cited issues such as book bans, future fundraising endeavors and a love of the town’s library as factors that motivated them to run.

Mary Jane Auns is the only incumbent, and she is running against Denise Bosse, Barbara Coriell and Wendy Wagner. The winners will serve three-year terms.

Richard Fortin, who has been the town’s library director for 12 years, said that while some libraries have advisory boards, the Bailey Public Library has a governing board. Trustees are charged with setting library policy, appointing and overseeing its director and working with the director on budgeting.

Both Bosse and Coriell said they were driven to run so they can ensure that books are not banned at the library.

School districts and libraries across the state and country have been grappling with whether to remove books with controversial themes from their shelves. Over 1,600 titles were challenged at public school districts nationally in the last year, and in Maine, the Buxton-based School Administrative District 6 is among the latest to contend with the issue. The school board is currently considering whether to remove “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” by Maia Kobabe from the high school library. Opponents say the graphic novel is pornographic and contains vivid descriptions of sex acts that are inappropriate for teenagers.


Justin Neill reads a newspaper at the Bailey Public Library in Winthrop on Monday. A race for seats on the town library’s board of trustees will be contested for the first time in over 10 years. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Bosse, an avid reader who has lived in Winthrop for about two years, said she was interested in running for the board before book bans received their current level of national attention but that the issue only reinforced her desire to run.

Bosse said she is opposed to books being banned because she supports free speech. She said she has no ax to grind politically by running for the board and lacks a party affiliation.

“Books are there to read and make you think,” she said. “Books are there for you to gather information to form your own opinions.”

Coriell, who has previously served as a board member for the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell, said that in addition to contributing to a library she enjoys, she wants to ensure that no books are banned from the facility.

“I realized there are people who run for these positions because they are into such things as book banning, and I definitely wanted to be a voice against that,” she said. “I believe that libraries are there to provide books for material for people to access, and people make their own decisions as far as what they want to access or not.”

Fortin said that while the library has not had any direct challenges in terms of book banning, if the issue did arise, the trustees would “have ultimate authority over deciding if challenged content were to stay” at the library.


“The trustees of a public library have a unique and important role in the community as gatekeepers of information and knowledge,” Fortin said. “And obviously library trustee seats don’t always get as much attention as other races, but the individuals who serve play a major role in expanding literacy and strengthening community. And with what we are seeing nationally right now in terms of censorship and restricting access, this role becomes more crucial.”

Wendy Wagner, while a newcomer to this election, has been involved with the library and other community organizations for several years. She has lived in Winthrop for about 40 years and has volunteered for the library for about a decade.

“I’m somebody who has always volunteered for something,” she said, adding that the Winthrop library is “near and dear” to her.

“I think reading is fundamental to everybody’s wellbeing and for their self-education, self-improvement and enjoyment,” she said. “And I would just like everyone to be able to read and have that feeling.”

Bailey Public Library employee Nick Perry looks for a title Monday in Winthrop. A race for seats on the town library’s board of trustees will be contested for the first time in over 10 years. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Wagner said she would like to run so she can ensure that the library continues providing the services it currently does in the community.

“I think the library is being run in a wonderful way,” she said. “It’s so open. There’s so many people in the library. It’s very inclusive. I love the programs that are happening … It’s just wonderful. They’re doing a great job, and I’d like to see that continue to happen.”


Auns is currently in her 12th year as a library board member, having served about as long as Fortin has been director. She said she is a big supporter of everything “Fortin has done to make this library the best library that it can be,” and said she’s running to ensure that fundraising efforts can continue going strong and that the facility can continue to support programs that aren’t covered by the regular budget.

Auns is also vice chair of the Winthrop Public Library Foundation, a nonprofit that is responsible for raising money for the library.

She said the foundation recently raised money for an addition as well as a parking lot, which depleted many of the foundation’s resources.

“Right now we don’t have as much money in our foundation as we would like, so we’re trying to increase that,” she said. “So when Richard (Fortin) comes to us with an idea we can say, ‘Yes, we’ll fund it.'”

Residents can cast their votes on Election Day, Nov. 8, or via absentee ballot starting on Oct. 11.

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