OLD ORCHARD BEACH — The demand for library services has increased in recent years, and the Edith Belle Libby Memorial Library’s trustees are recognizing that need.

In a presentation Tuesday night, trustees and members of the library staff asked the Town Council to put a $2 million bond on November’s ballot asking residents to fund a library expansion.

“We’re busier than we have ever been,” said library Director Eileen McNally. “We just need more space. We need to do something and we need to do it as soon as we can.”

The proposed expansion is projected to cost $2.2 million and the library has already raised about $250,000. McNally said the expansion would add space for library programs, technology and media resources, patrons’ comfort and privacy, and community access. It also would bring the building up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Jerome Plante, chairman of the trustees, said the 3,450-square-foot library that opened in 1956 is no longer adequate for the town’s population. “It truly needs to be expanded,” he said.

When the library opened, it was designed to serve a community of fewer than 4,000 people. Since then, McNally said, the town’s population has tripled and circulation at the library has grown from 15,000 to 37,000 annually. On an average day, the library serves about 100 patrons. During the summer, the number can exceed 200.

Cathy McGuckin, a part-time circulation desk staff member and library volunteer, said there is only one reading chair, one reading table and one work table for library patrons. The building is only partially ADA-compliant.

People who come in to use the computers have very little privacy to do their work and are limited to one hour, for members, and 15 minutes, for guests.

She also said the library has turned away willing volunteers simply because there isn’t enough room for them.

With 99 percent of the library’s $225,000 annual operating budget coming from the town, McGuckin said, the only way to expand it is through the bond and additional fundraising.

“The library is one true community resource that can benefit every person living or visiting town,” she said.

After the presentation, town councilors expressed support for the bond proposal. A public hearing on the issue has been scheduled tentatively for Sept. 6. For the proposal to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, the council would have to approve the measure at its meeting Sept. 20.

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]