The family of Maine’s second most-famous horror writer is upset that his hometown library has turned down an opportunity to house his archives, and will look elsewhere in Maine or out of state if necessary for a suitable repository.

Rick Hautala, a best-selling author from Westbrook, had hoped his papers and trove of correspondence would have a permanent home at Walker Memorial Library, but his widow said his wishes won’t be met. The library informed her last week that it had declined the offer, saying it does not have the resources to properly care for the materials.

“Westbrook has all these banners hanging on Main Street saying ‘Artists live here. Writers live here.’ When something like this happens, it feels like the community doesn’t support its artists,” said Hautala’s widow, Holly Newstein.

Hautala, whose 1986 novel “Night Stone” sold more than 1 million copies, died in 2013. He graduated from the University of Maine in 1974 and spent most of his professional life in Westbrook. He taught in city schools, and mentored young writers about the craft.

Hautala wrote more than 90 novels and short stories, and won numerous publishing industry awards. In 2011, the Horror Writers Association gave him its Bram Stroker Award for lifetime achievement. Among horror writers from Maine, he is second only to Stephen King in popularity and accomplishment.

“Rick was the most prominent writer to come out of Westbrook. This feels like a real loss to the community,” Newstein said. “It lost its most prominent writer, and now the community won’t be able to enjoy any kind of program that might come out of his archives. We will look elsewhere.”

In her letter to Newstein, Walker library director Karen Valley said the library wasn’t equipped to properly preserve or care for the archive, and suggested she try to place it at the University of Maine, the Portland Public Library or the Maine State Library. She said the library would continue to circulate Hautala’s novels, and called him Westbrook’s “most notable author.”

In her letter to Newstein, Valley wrote, “Walker’s staffing is not robust enough to handle such an important gift, and, therefore, we would not be able to care for Rick’s papers in the manner demanded of such a significant gift.”

Library board chairman Judith Reidman said ongoing renovations at the Walker make it impossible for the library to accept the gift. She said the board struggled with its decision, and took time to explore all options.

“I just feel horrible,” she said Thursday, the day a letter to the editor from Newstein appeared in the Portland Press Herald. “We really wrestled with it, and we agreed that we would be doing him a disservice if we accepted something we could not maintain. If you accept something and it ends up in storage, what a disservice that would be to Rick and his legacy.”

Newstein said she was shocked when she read Valley’s letter, because she and Hautala thought they had worked out a plan before he died for the Walker library to receive the collection. The collection had been housed at Westbrook’s other library, Warren Memorial, but Hautala removed it when Warren, a private library, encountered financial difficulties and closed in 2010.

The Hautala collection includes drafts and manuscripts, galley proofs, and letters between Hautala and his publishers, agents and literary friends, said his personal archivist, Anastasia Weigle. She is the former director at Warren, and cared for the collection when that library housed it. She offered her services to the family after his death.

“The collection contains Rick’s entire life and career as a creative writer and published author,” she said. “It covers the breadth and scope of this man’s career.”

The collection is stored in archival boxes, and Weigle is surveying it and taking an inventory. It fills many boxes, and requires 25 to 30 linear feet of shelf space.

Newstein is upset because it took the Walker board a year to act on her offer, and she doesn’t understand the reasons that the library cited for declining the gift.

“My first reaction was, why did it take you a year to figure this out? My second reaction was, what do you mean unqualified? I was appalled by the lack of vision, the lack of perception that this is a really valuable gift,” she said.

Weigle said she was surprised by the rejection as well, because she thought the library wanted the gift. She also said that if the library board or staff does not feel qualified to care for it, then the archive will be safer elsewhere.

“The Hautala papers in Westbrook would have more visibility,” she said. “But I respect the board’s decision on this. I thought they would take it, and I wish I had known sooner. But we’ll go forward. This is not a problem. As archivists, we do what we have to do. We’ll find a proper home.”

Joshua Bodwell, executive director of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, said the value of a collection hinges on preservation and posterity. It can be used for education and research, but it also locks in a time and place. Increasingly, writers and artists correspond by email and text messaging, he said. Unless they print those emails and messages, they are not preserved.

Hautala’s papers document written correspondence between the writer and publisher, the writer and agent, and between writers.

Bodwell also said he understood why a library might decline the gift, and saluted the library board for having the foresight to say no. Making an unpopular decision is never easy, he said, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

“The reason to say no is they do not feel properly able to care for it,” he said. “Good for them for saying that. Now let’s move on and figure out where these papers should be.”

Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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