The Gardiner Public Library is one of three libraries in Kennebec County that will receive federal pandemic relief funding to make their spaces more usable for remote workers. Ashley Allen/Kennebec Journal file

Three libraries in Kennebec County will receive a total of over $80,000 in federal pandemic relief funding to make their spaces more usable for remote workers by adding private work areas.

Officials from Gardiner Public Library, Vassalboro Public Library and Readfield Community Library said they have seen an uptick in the average number of daily visitors this year, compared to before the pandemic, and that more people have been using the libraries as remote workspaces, either out of necessity or choice.

But most are not equipped with private or semiprivate spaces for people to work comfortably without interruption, they said.

The funding is part of a $1.7 million investment in 39 libraries across the state announced on Tuesday. The Maine State Library and the Maine Maine Department of Economic and Community Development awarded the funds through a “Remote Work Through Libraries” initiative that is part of Gov. Janet Mills’ Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan.

The plan, approved by the Legislature, invests federal COVID-relief funds to “improve the lives of Maine people and families, help businesses, create good-paying jobs, and build an economy poised for future prosperity.”

The library grants ranged from $5,000 to $100,000.


Gardiner Public Library received $32,525, which it plans to use to add a soundproof “pod” that will serve as a pop-up room within the 142-year-old building so no construction is required.

The Gardiner Public Library plans to add a portable meeting room, like this one made by the company Room, with the federal pandemic relief funding it recently received. Courtesy of Room

Dawn Thistle, the library director, said she has seen a growing need for private areas in the library to allow guests to make phone calls or participate in Zoom meetings.

She said the pod seemed like a good option because it can be set up quickly and used immediately.

“It’s actually called a meeting room, and it has a door and will have power,” explained Thistle. “It has a glass wall and air circulates, and there is a bench with two seats and a table, and it comes configured.” 

The pod is made by a company called Room, which retails portable conference rooms starting at $19,995.

Brian Stanley, the library director of the Vassalboro Public Library, said he applied for the grant and received $24,999 to adapt to the needs of a rising number of users.


On average, Stanley said the library sees around 40 daily visitors, a number that has nearly doubled since before the pandemic in 2019 and has prompted the library to expand the number of days it is open each week, from three to five. In September, Stanley said the library will open six days a week.

The library shut down for five weeks in January 2022 to reorganize and move bookshelves to create a space for people to gather, including parents who bring in their small children to read and play with educational toys and groups like the knitting group that uses the space twice a month.

Vassalboro Public Library volunteer Beth Hatch checks the condition of books in February 2022 while working in the children’s section of the library. Portions of the library were reconfigured to make new space for children to gather, work on projects and read. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

“The numbers have greatly improved, especially with the gathering areas … It’s just really nice to see. Before, people were in and out, and we weren’t really program-focused. We have done a lot of programs since the pandemic and gotten great responses from people,” he said.

Stanley said the library is used daily by remote workers but that the library doesn’t have private areas. With the new funds, the library will convert two storage rooms, including its book sale room, to workspaces that can accommodate around 10 people, collectively.

The money will also help the library purchase a storage shed and upgrade its technology.

This storage room is one of two at the Vassalboro Public Library that will be converted into space for remote workers using federal pandemic relief funding. Courtesy of Vassalboro Public Library

“We have had proctor sessions and remote workers come in when we have a program, and we might have to ask them to move, and we try to get it to work,” Stanley said. “Or we offer the book sale room for them to work in, and there is only a small table that wasn’t set up … it’s happened a couple of times in the past years.” 


Readfield Community Library received $24,999 and will use the money to help modernize the library, which is in a 17th-century house, by installing electrical outlets inside and outside the building.

Librarian Melissa Small said because the building is older, there aren’t many places where people can work away from other guests or plug their laptop in. The second floor is currently not used, but a second grant has helped the library open a room upstairs for people to work in.

The library sees around 50 to 60 people on average each day it is open, Small said.

“It will be lovely to have more space inside and outside the library to get work done of any kind, whether it’s job applications, college applications, school work, or if they have a home business and have to have some space. We have a printer and a robust WiFi system,” Small said, who added that the library is also popular with summer residents who don’t have stable work places at their seasonal houses.

The grant also will pay for the library to add a new ramp to access the first floor of the library. Vassalboro Public Library will add a new button to open the front door electronically.

Residents can get a free library card from their local library to check-out books, videos, games and other offerings. Nonresidents can check out an item for a small fee.

Gardiner’s Public Library is located at 125 Water St., Readfield Community Library is located at 1151 Main St., and Vassalboro Public Library is at 930 Bog Road.

Maine has a total of 255 public libraries.

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