Plans to expand the Scarborough Public Library have been in the works for over 15 years. The proposal would include a two-story addition and around 22,000 square feet to the building’s footprint. Contributed/Scarborough Public Library

The Scarborough Town Council voted 5-2 Wednesday to put a $13 million library expansion project on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Voters will be asked to decide whether to issue a bond not to exceed $12,938,995 to add a two-story addition to the library, including teen and children’s sections, large meeting spaces and staff areas.

Councilors April Sither and Don Hamill voted against sending the project to voters, concerned about the financial impact it could have on taxpayers with the cost of other projects in the pipeline, such as a new school and community center, which is currently unknown.

The project is estimated to cost $13.7 million in total, with the remaining funds to be generated via fundraising. Any excess fundraising will be used to decrease the amount of money the library would borrow from the town.

“We have every intention of having all of the fundraising money be used to be able to support the bond,” said Bill Donovan, president of the library’s Board of Trustees. “We do not want to use any more bond money than is necessary, so if there is any unrestricted fundraising money, that money is going to get used so as to reduce the impact of the bonds.”

Councilor John Cloutier said the library’s Board of Trustees has done a comprehensive job in developing the project by evaluating multiple options, selecting one, and coming up with designs.


“For me, this is purely procedural,” Cloutier said. “Now it’s time to ask the voters if they want to do it or not. If they do, we’re going to move on. If they don’t, we’re going to figure out how to fit it into our capital plan.”

The library has been looking to expand for over 15 years. Residents rejected an expansion, 1,488 to 1,235, in 2006, and trustees renewed efforts in 2016. Trustees argue that they have waited patiently as other projects, such as the Public Safety Building, were prioritized, but now is their time.

If approved, the library would expand from 12,884 to 35,060 square feet. The first floor of the addition would feature an atrium and separate teen and children’s reading sections with study spaces and small meeting rooms. The new sections would allow all of the current building to be dedicated to adults and offices.

The second floor would feature more office space, some small meeting rooms and a large meeting room that could seat up to 150 people. The library currently has two meeting rooms, the largest of which can seat 25 people comfortably, trustees say. In addition, the library’s Wi-Fi network is housed in a janitor’s closet, excess furniture is stored in staff areas, and many books have been placed on out-of-reach shelves due to a lack of space.

“They need more space, can’t dispute it,” Councilor Nick McGee said at Wednesday’s meeting. “How much space, I think, is what you can start to get into.”

Some councilors have been hesitant to send the library expansion to a referendum, citing other projects on the horizon such as a consolidated primary school and a community center. Those in support of the library expansion argue that the other projects are in the early stages while the library expansion is ready for the next step: voter approval.

“I can’t emphasize enough, I am not sitting here making a decision on what Jean-Marie Caterina thinks about whether or not the library should build an addition,” said Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina on Wednesday. “I am making a decision: ‘is this going out to every voter in town to make that decision?’ And that’s why I’m comfortable doing that.”

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