BIDDEFORD – As people came up the stairwell to the second floor of the McArthur Library on Thursday evening, they had a common reaction.

“Wow,” some said as they walked through the door. “This is beautiful.”

Greeted in the past by a wall of shelves that housed the library’s DVD collection and some books, patrons now walk into a bright, open space with a front desk and a seating area.

The new space is part of a $200,000 renovation that was completed in November, said Sally Leahey, interim director of the library. Thursday evening, residents, city officials and donors to the project joined to celebrate the new look of the library.

The renovations completed work that was left unfinished by an addition in the mid-1990s. Work done over the past few months opened up space that was used strictly for storage for more than a decade. That area, with windows overlooking Main Street, is now a quiet reading space, named for Henrietta Carroll, a past president of the library’s board of trustees.

“Henrietta would have loved this,” said Abigail Carroll, Henrietta’s granddaughter, seeing the space for the first time. “Everyone remembers her as a voracious reader. It makes sense that she was involved with this library.”

Except for one week, the library remained open throughout the renovation, which started in August, Leahey said.

She described running the library during the project as “controlled pandemonium” and thanked the staff for its efforts.

In the one week the library closed, its staff worked with a moving company to shift the entire second floor inventory so contractors could lay the carpeting, Leahey said.

The renovation includes new carpeting on the entire second floor, a more accessible local history section and a spacious teen area.

As a small crowd mingled in the Henrietta Carroll Room, teenagers enjoyed their larger space toward the back of the second floor. Previously, the young adult section was cramped in a corner, with minimal seating.

Samantha Tate, 13, and Taylor Lambert, 12, lounged in two comfy chairs, using the library’s wireless Internet. The two Biddeford Middle School students said they come to the library nearly every day, and so do a lot of their friends.

“This is pretty cool,” Tate said of the new space. “It’s great space for teens hanging out.”

Brooke Faulkner, the young-adult librarian, said she has already seen an increase in use of the new space by Biddeford’s youths.

“It’s just a better use of space,” Faulkner said, recalling how teenagers hovered over each other in the previous young-adult section.

Back when the teen section, public computers and most of the adult collection occupied the main part of the library, Leahey said, it was very difficult to find a quiet place to sit and read.

Now, she said, the Henrietta Carroll Room “means the library finally has some quiet reading space and teens have their own space too.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]