Curtis Memorial Library has offered curbside pickup services throughout the pandemic. Contributed / Curtis Memorial Library

Brunswick’s Curtis Memorial Library plans to launch an electric bookmobile in 2023 to provide books, Wi-Fi and programming throughout Brunswick and Harpswell.

“The librarians here have been wanting to make something like this happen for many years,” said Joyce Fehl, the library’s manager of marketing and development. “Ultimately, our goal is to get books and literacy and access to our digital services available to as many people as we can.”

The project will cost between $90,000 and $100,000, according to library documents submitted to the town of Harpswell. The library has already raised $85,000 toward its goal, and the balance will come from grants and fundraising. The towns of Brunswick and Harpswell won’t be asked to pay any additional support to the library for it.

The graphic novel section at Curtis Memorial Library. When the bookmobile hits the streets in 2023, librarians will tailor its catalog to whichever group it visits on a given day. Contributed / Curtis Memorial Library

The Manton Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit, provided the bulk of the funding through a $65,000 grant, Fehl said.

Curtis’ librarians have worked to bring books to the community before, she said, but they were limited by the size of their personal vehicles. The new electric van, which will feature built-in book racks, charging stations, interior and exterior lighting, a wheelchair lift and an awning, will expand the team’s reach.

“There are so many more places that (the librarians) would like to be able to get to,” Fehl said. “This will be a way that they can do that on a large scale.”


Nearly 13,000 people have used library cards at Curtis in the past three years, according to the library.

COVID limited programming and closed the building’s doors for much of 2020 and 2021, said Executive Director Liz Doucett. Yet a strong curbside pickup program helped keep circulation numbers at about 90% of their pre-pandemic levels, and the library’s fundraising numbers actually ticked up.

After closing to the public during much of 2020 and 2021, Curtis Memorial Library reopened fully last September. Over 270,000 visitors browse the library’s catalog each year. Contributed / Curtis Memorial Library

“People are saying, ‘These institutions are important,’” Doucett said. “’We want to make sure they stay healthy.’”

In March, the people of Harpswell will vote, as they do every three years, on whether to continue to affiliate with Curtis Memorial Library, said Selectwoman Jane Covey.

Currently, the town provides the Brunswick library with about $155,000 annually, about 9% of the organization’s operating budget, according to the library’s funding request. Harpswell residents represent about 16% of active cardholders.

While Harpswell has two small libraries of its own, Covey said, Curtis’ size makes it an attractive choice for many residents, especially those who live on Harpswell Neck.


“The folks in Harpswell generally appreciate the opportunity to use Curtis Library, because it has a much broader collection,” she said. “I know people with families love the children’s programs they have.”

The town has generally voted about 60-40 in support of affiliating with the library, according to Covey.

Should residents do so again this year, they’ll look forward to experiencing Curtis’s mobile services without leaving their town.

It’s great,” Covey said of the bookmobile proposal. “I think it’s a wonderful addition to the services that they’re going to be bringing to Harpswell.”

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