A bond to expand the Scarborough Library may be on the November 2022 ballot. Courtesy photo

SCARBOROUGH — Plans to expand the Scarborough Public Library have been in the works for over 15 years. Despite a number of setbacks, members of the library board of trustees are still committed to moving forward. On Nov. 17, they told the Town Council they hope to have a bond referendum on the November 2022 ballot to fund the project.

The last cost estimate was $12 million but it will likely be more, library representatives say, and part of the planning process includes coming up with a more accurate price tag.

Library representatives say more space, that would also accommodate more services, is needed for Scarborough’s growing community.

This proposed footprint draft for the Scarborough Public Library adds 22,000 more square footage, extending the library outward as originally planned and upward over the new first floor construction. Courtesy photo/Scarborough Public Library

“We are one of the smallest libraries per capita in Maine at .64 square feet per person,” according to the library website. “Even if we more than double our current space, we’ll still be below average in size. On top of this, Scarborough ‘s population is expected to grow to 27,000 over the next ten years. Clearly space constraints are impacting the quality and quantity of our services and collections now and will do so more profoundly into the near future.”

The proposed addition would provide an additional floor and 22,000 more square feet to the building’s footprint. It would accommodate more reading nooks, meeting space, upgraded computer lab, activity space for young and old and more.

Last week, library board of trustees’ President Bill Donovan said library staff and trustees have been planning for an expansion over many years and have worked carefully with the town throughout the process. He updated the council about where they were in the planning process.

“This has been a long journey. We gave you a timeline chart that shows you that we go back to pre-2006 with an effort to expand the library,” Donavan said. “When the library was built in 1989, we knew it was going to need to be expanded. In the early 2000s, extensive effort was put forward and the (2006) bond referendum failed by about 100 votes. Following that we expected that we would regroup but as we all learned there were a whole series of things that intervened and the library recognized that the town council had to make judgments about what was important, and we had a major recession in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 period of time. We had the Wentworth School as an essential addition to this community that we are very proud of. We had the public safety building. Again the library felt like that was an important thing to add to this community, so we waited patiently. Then COVID hit and it gave us a chance to step back … we are looking at the November of 2022 referendum. We are looking at the year 2021-2022 as a significant fundraising year,” he said.

Design plans for the building began about two years ago and there are still changes being made to the plans, library Director Nancy Crowell said.

“The largest change is that we went from a one-floor to a two-floor addition,” she said. “We did that very deliberately as it turns out we’ve looked at the footprint and the fact that it was consuming all of the space on that parcel.”

The original Scarborough Public Library was founded in 1899 by the members of the First Parish Church, located on the Black Point Road. The architect for the project was Frederick A. Tompson who donated his time and drew up the plans for a one-room library building. After the construction of the building, the library added wings in 1937 and 1953. In 1976, the library underwent an expansion with a two-story addition at the rear of the building to make room for a children’s place and public meeting space. A new library building, located in the central Oak Hill area, opened in 1990 after a community-wide fundraiser. The one-story, 12,800-square-foot building is a blend of the architectural styles prevalent in the community and was designed to accommodate expansion in the future.

In 2002, the library trustees undertook several studies to identify space deficiencies and operational inefficiencies in the current building. They found that the needs of the library include: room to expand its collections, improved technology, a new delivery system, and additional space for library users and staff. Annually, library visits have exceeded 132,710 and as the community grows, they are expected to exceed 185,000 in the next 20 years.

In 2004, an architect was hired to conduct a study of existing conditions and develop architectural plans for an expansion. In June 2006, voters defeated a bond to fund a proposed expansion and renovation of the existing building.

The cost for building expansion planning, to take place next year, is estimated at $250,000 and would cover engineering and architectural designs for the project, as well as a project budget, in preparation for a bond referendum vote in November 2022. About $150,000 is being used to retain engineers to conduct studies of existing building and on-site conditions, and to continue architectural design including costs and estimates. An estimated $100,000 is being spent to retain fundraising counsel to assist with capital campaigning. The building expansion, with proposed construction in 2023, is currently estimated to cost about $12 million, but the actual price tag would likely increase following the preliminary study, library representatives say.

To find the new library plans, visit the Scarborough Public Library website at scarboroughlibrary.org. Click on “about us” and under the pull down list click on “expansion plan.”

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