AUGUSTA — The Maine State Library will have a new home in 2021 at 242 State St. in Augusta.

The library’s usual home, the Cultural Building, closed for two years in July for asbestos removal and mechanical upgrades.

In April 2019, the Kennebec Journal reported on the levels of asbestos at the building, which showed high levels in settled dust.

A low level of airborne fibers, however, showed no elevated risk of exposure to staff or the public, according to experts.

The cost of those repairs will be covered by $15 million from the Maine Governmental Facilities Authority program, according to e repairs, according to Kelsey Goldsmith, spokesperson for the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services. She said the library will reopen at the building after the project is completed.

In the meantime, the public portion of the library will be moved down the street to a state-owned building at 242 State St., which has two floors and about 25,760 square feet.

Goldsmith said she expected it would be ready in January.

“This location will offer public access on the first floor, facilitating lending from this location and accommodating some meeting space, a select number of the library’s most popular collections and most of the library’s research functionality,” she said, adding the second floor will house offices and be closed to the public.

The building at 242 State St. has been used as “swing space” to temporarily house some state agencies as they transition to new or renovated facilities, according to a report published in 2017.

Before that, more than 150 Department of Health and Human Services workers worked at the building. Goldsmith said it was also used as the headquarters for the Department of Motor Vehicles in the past.

Adam Fisher, head of collection development, digital initiatives and promotion at the Maine State Library, loads a bookshelf onto a cart Tuesday at the Cultural Building in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Library Director James Ritter said the smaller space will limit what portion of the library’s collection is available. He said the collection will largely focus on titles relating to Maine, and research and genealogy services will be at the “forefront” of services offered.

The library’s collection of microfilm will also be available, along with four public computers.

Ritter said library staff and state officials were “methodical” in their search for a new temporary home. Before settling on the state-owned State Street building, he said the search included a number of buildings, including the former Sears store at the Turnpike Mall.

“We looked at a lot of different locations,” Ritter said. “(The building at 242 State St.) just made the most sense.”

For collections storage, Goldsmith said, the department’s Bureau of General Services has leased 13,000 square feet of warehouse space at 1705 Route 202 in Winthrop, with an additional 1,000 square feet of office space for library staff in the same building. This space will not have a public function.

The library also has some storage space in Hallowell.

Ritter said the library has offered a few services while the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down the library, including curbside pickup, mailing audio books to hearing-impaired members and its books-by-mail program.

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