Rendering of the expanded library.

SCARBOROUGH — In addition to state and local candidates, on Nov. 8 Scarborough voters will be asked to decide on seven charter amendments and whether to approve a bond of up to $13 million to expand the local library.

The bond question reads “Shall the Order entitled “Order authorizing renovation, expansion, and equipping of Scarborough Public Library, authorizing issuance of up to $12,938,995 in general obligation bonds of the Town of Scarborough and appropriating the bond proceeds for the project” be approved?” The Library Board of Trustees have pledged private funding to cover any expenses that go over this amount. Private donations will also fund the temporary relocation of the library while construction happens.

An expansion to the library has been in the works for years, as the building is severely undersized for the local population, according to library representatives. It is currently one of the smallest libraries per capita in the state. Planning for the expansion project has included fundraising, focus groups on community need, a space needs consultant, and the architecture firm Simons Architects was chosen in September 2019. The proposed expansion also includes such things as public computer space and public meeting space.

According to the Scarborough Public Library Expansion website, “Simons Architects estimates the cost to be $13.9M and a portion of this will be offset through private donations… The current estimate is based on real data, reviewed by a third-party, and not suggestions… If the bond is approved, the exact cost for each taxpayer will vary from year to year depending on interest rates, home valuations and the length of the bond. That said, the Town Manager estimates that in today’s dollars, for a $400K home over 30 years, it would cost the taxpayer $1000 or roughly $35 a year on average.”

A library is an important part of a community, library representatives say. “To me, personally, the most important benefit of the library expansion is providing the community a gathering place like none other in town,” said Bill Donovan, president of the Library Board of Trustees. “The increased space will serve all ages and interests. The expansion focuses on critical community needs. This includes small and large meeting room space, and private work and study space. The expansion will increase access to computer and electronic services, be it laptops, wifi, or technical professionals to solve problems. Adequate spacing for young children and teens is provided. And it will offer all of this in a warm, friendly place where all are welcome. Our community, every community, deserves a place like this.

As the library currently exists, the size constraints limit the benefits the facility to provide to the community, said library Director Nancy Crowell. “One of the reasons we’re in this job is because we value service to the community, and we find it frustrating and at times distressing to not be able to provide services that we feel the community needs and would respond to,” Crowell said. “And some of those struggles could be addressed by not only larger but more appropriate space.”


It is important to remember that the value of libraries are community-based and go beyond just access to books, she said.

“I like to remind members of the community that the library serves everyone,” Crowell said. “It may not be immediately obvious, because we have phases in our life when information has more immediacy than at other times. We may have a senior citizen who is arriving for assistance who hasn’t been in the library for 30 years, and they are needing some sort of assistance for information, or help with technology, or perhaps they have a medical issue and they need to find out more research with some sort of a vetted appropriate resource. That is their time of their life when the library is going to be essential to them.”

“It might be a new family to the community who needs to meet other young families and they develop a friendship and a relationship in our play area,” Crowell expanded. “So I like to remind people that it’s not a facility where we just check out books. It’s a facility where we connect people at whatever time of their life that they need that connection. We are here and ready for them. And we’re the only facility in town that has that mission.”

But not all favor the expansion.

In a Letter to the Editor in today’s Scarborough Leader, Frances Audet writes, “The Scarborough Library probably needs expansion but not the $16 million project on the November ballot. Scarborough is also planning a Primary School for $136 million and a Pool/Community Center for $35+ million. These will likely contain space to accommodate non-library events currently planned for the proposed expansion.”

In another letter, Roman Józefiak states, “The Community Survey the town council put out said that residents were happy with the library just the way it was. I do not see the need to make this as huge as they are asking for! Especially when not many people even go to the library anymore! I’m VOTING NO!”

Much more information on the project can be found online at

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