A rendering of the proposed Scarborough Public Library. Rendering / Simon Architects

Supporters of the $13.7 million Scarborough Public Library project say it needs to triple in size and now is the “perfect” time to do it, while opponents say the expansion is too big as proposed at a time when more important projects are on the horizon.

Scarborough voters will decide Nov. 8 whether to allow the town to borrow up to nearly $13 million for the expansion. Remaining costs are to be covered by fundraising, including the cost of a temporary relocation of library operations not included in the $13.7 million price tag. Including the costs for relocation, the total cost of the project will be about $16 million.

The library’s board of trustees believes their time is now: a $6.75 million expansion project in 2006 was voted down 1,488 to 1,235. They hope to get the project approved before a consolidated school project, estimated to cost upwards of $134 million, goes to voters.

Scarborough Public Library Executive Director Nancy Crowell and Board of Trustees President Bill Donovan believe now is the right time to expand. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

“It’s a perfect time in terms of indebtedness of the town to fit the library project bond,” said Library Director Nancy Crowell in an interview with The Forecaster. “I don’t want to be dismissive; it is an amount of money, but it’s a very small project compared to some of the other projects that are under consideration, specifically the school.”

If passed and paid over a 30-year period at 4% interest, the roughly $13 million bond would require the owner of a home assessed at $400,000 to pay an extra $1,000 in taxes over the life of the bond, $35 per year on average over the 30 years, according to Town Manager Tom Hall.

Some residents, including members of Scarborough Maine Advocates for Reasonable Taxes, believe the library needs to be expanded, but the school project needs to take precedence.


“It sounds like it’s not that much money when you look at the tax impact to your average taxpayer,” Susan Hamill, a SMARTaxes member, said in an interview with The Forecaster. “However, that’s going to look a little different when they’re facing a big tax increase because of the school.”

The 22,000-square-foot, two-story expansion would add an atrium, dedicated space for both younger children and teens, and staff areas. It would also add meeting rooms, including one that could fit 150 people comfortably. It is space the library needs, said Bill Donovan, chairperson of the library’s board of trustees.

“We have so many events that take place that we need a space to house 100 to 150 people, and we don’t have it,” he said. “We need space for people to study, whether it’s the school population after school for homework, quiet space for business people, and staff space. We have people sharing small cubicle-style spaces, and it’s totally inadequate for the needs of this community.”

Crowell said the library has had to close early when large events are held “because we can’t manage it.”

“We can’t function with full services as well as a program going on,” she said.

Hamill said increasing the library’s size from 13,000 square feet to 35,000 square feet is “excessive.”


“I’ve been on the tour, I’ve seen the conditions,” Hamill said, noting the inadequate space for staff and utilities, such as the library’s digital database being stored in a closet. “I definitely agree they need an expansion but I think 35,000 square feet is really excessive.”

Crowell and Donovan said the library is one of the smallest in Maine per capita, with just over a half-foot per resident. The expansion would bring it to just over 1½ feet per person, which is larger per capita than libraries in Falmouth, Portland and Lewiston, but smaller than those in Cape Elizabeth, Bangor and Yarmouth.

Hamill cited a community survey conducted by the town last year in which 55% of the 862 respondents said they use the library a few times per year or never.

More people may make use of the library when the expansion allows more programming, Crowell and Donovan said. However, the vast majority of respondents, 87%, said they are satisfied with the library’s services.

The survey also concluded that roughly 49% of respondents are either supportive or very supportive of a library expansion project and 26% are not supportive, with the remaining 26% neutral.

If the project is defeated at the polls, Crowell said, the need for an expansion will only increase because Scarborough is one of the fastest-growing communities in the state.

“I expect we’re going to be struggling with providing programs, so there will be impacts,” she said. “The things we won’t be able to do will start becoming more obvious and that will be unfortunate for our community. We’re really all about improving, and it will definitely be a reverse.”

Voting will take place at Scarborough High School from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 8

For more information on the expansion project, go to expansion.scarboroughlibrary.org. To learn more about the SMARTaxes group and their stance, go to smartaxes.weebly.com.

The current library building, to the left and shaded pink in this design, will become the adult section. A new atrium, yellow, will lead to the new youth section, light green and dark green, with staff spaces throughout, purple. Contributed / Simon Architects

The second floor of the library addition will house staff offices, purple, a large meeting and activity room, light blue, and smaller meeting rooms. Contributed / Simon Architects

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