A few minutes ago, a very nice gentleman came to print a document from his phone. Our Wi-Fi printing is a bit touchy sometimes, and if you stand about 20 feet from the printer to send the document, it works great! If you are standing next to the machine, it doesn’t recognize the connection. Such is technology sometimes!

We successfully printed the document and he noticed a child walk toward our Teen Space. Here is the conversation that followed:

Gentleman, “You allow children here?”

Me, “Sure, let me show you our Teen area.”

Gentleman, “They can play games here?” He had just noticed a couple of teens playing
computer games.

Me, “Yes, we have great computers in this space.”

Gentleman, “I have a ten-year-old and a thirteen-year-old. They can come here?”

Me, “Of course, let me show you the Children’s Room as well.”

Gentleman, noticing the baby/toddler space, “They have a space for babies?”

Me, “Yes, all ages.”

Gentleman, “I have other children too, ages five and seven. They could come here?”

Me, “Absolutely.”

When Robert McArthur, McArthur Library’s benefactor and namesake proposed a public library for the City of Biddeford, this is exactly what he envisioned. The mills were thriving and the area had many immigrants. McArthur started as a bobbin boy and eventually rose to a high ranking mill position. He was self-taught, largely by reading, and felt that the mill workers and residents would benefit from a free public institution of learning. Clearly, his philanthropy is still making a
difference in people’s lives.

The gentleman I assisted was not a native speaker and was overwhelmed by the idea that his children would be welcomed here. It was a very joyful interaction to see someone so excited about using the library. It was also heart wrenching to learn that people are still unaware of all that we offer.

McArthur Library has long been a Family Place Library, meaning we recognize our role in the community not only as a purveyor of books, but as a central location in our city where all should feel welcome. It means we are a place where food-insecure children receive meals during the summer, and where people who do not own computers can apply for jobs online. Many who are new to our community can find a warm, safe environment for their children to learn.

Libraries exist only to provide services to the communities they serve. It is interesting to look at all the services McArthur Library provides. One hundred and fifty-seven years ago it is unlikely that our founders envisioned an establishment that loaned snowshoes, screened documentaries, offered meeting spaces, technology assistance and downloadable books. Although the world has changed, our place in the community has remained essential.

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