CAPE ELIZABETH – Town officials on Thursday began a summer of community conversations about the future of Thomas Memorial Library by asking residents what they want to see in a new building.

Residents will vote in November on whether to move forward with plans to renovate part of the library and add new sections. The project could cost $8.1 million. Conceptual plans have been developed, but town officials say nothing is set in stone and they want to hear from residents about what the library should include.

More than 60 residents attended Thursday’s meeting to talk about the plans and share ideas.

A 2009 report by a study committee listed more than 100 deficiencies in the current library, from unreliable wheelchair lifts to a faulty heating system and a leaking roof. The committee recommended that the library be replaced.

The renovation and expansion, which would save only the Pond Cove Annex, would be funded by a combination of tax dollars and private donations. Officials believe that as much as $2 million could be raised through donations and grants.

The library would double in size and include a cultural center and more meeting rooms. Library Director Jay Scherma said patrons would have access to library materials during construction.


Council Chairwoman Sara Lennon said there is a misconception among residents that plans for the library project are more developed than they actually are.

She said the plans are about 20 percent done, not the 80 percent she estimates many people think.

If residents approve the project, a building committee will be formed to work on final design plans and costs.

Several residents suggested that the town hold brainstorming sessions to involve more people in developing the plan. The town will hold weekly library tours this summer, and a series of formal and informal meetings and “neighborhood teas” to talk about the project. A public hearing will be held by the Town Council in September or October.

Most people at Thursday’s meeting spoke in favor of a new library, while several questioned whether plans need to include as much meeting space as currently envisioned.

Resident Ashley Collins said it is important that the library have adequate meeting space because “it’s really the one place all ages come together” in the community.


Anne Swift-Kayatta, a former town councilor who served on the library committee, said the current library is an embarrassment and is not cost-effective despite the best efforts of its staff.

“I think (a new library) is going to meet our community’s needs for 30 years to come,” she said.

Resident Chris McCarthy suggested that the library provide as much access to technology and meeting space as possible. His daughter, Madison McCarthy, said officials should consider adding coat racks so she can hang up her backpack, as well as inspiring places to read and more programs for older children and teenagers.

The first library tour of the summer will begin at 10:30 a.m. on June 27. For more information, go to

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: grahamgillian


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.