Nancy Olds, children’s librarian at the Hollis Center Public Library, helps Elijah Deschenes, 1, look for books earlier this month. For years, the non-municipal library has received funding from the town to help cover operating expenses. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

HOLLIS — The two libraries sit just two miles apart.

For more than 100 years, each has served this small York County town, providing books, a gathering spot and a center of community. As many rural libraries do, both rely on volunteers.

But this year, funding for the libraries – one municipal, the other a nonprofit – has become a source of friction as town officials grapple with how to keep a rising budget in check and as one of the libraries fights for the money it needs to stay open.

Near the Saco River, the Salmon Falls Library operates in a house built in the 1820s and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its roots date back to 1911 when author and educator Kate Douglas Wiggins started the Salmon Falls Village Library and Tearoom because she was a strong believer in literacy. It is now open 14 hours each week.

Not far away, the Hollis Center Public Library is housed in a cozy building with wood floors and a colorful children’s room in the basement. Its origins date to the turn of the last century, when several local women began a circulating library that stored books in various homes.

Nancy Olds, children’s librarian at the Hollis Center Public Library, talks with Elijah Deschenes in the library, while Marlow Nugent, 2, watches from a nearby couch. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The collection was eventually moved to the library room in the Knights of Pythian Hall, where in 1913 Frances Harmon, Josie Bradbury and 13 other members voted to form the Hollis Center Library Association. They launched an intense campaign to raise money to build the library in 1921. The same year, the town gave the library $50, the first annual contribution.


Hollis Center is a non-municipal library and operates as an independent, nonprofit organization. The bulk of its funding comes from the town, but the library also secures grants and donations to cover the costs of operating 20 hours each week, maintaining the building and hosting a summer reading program.

Both of the libraries in Hollis are important to the community, complement each other and serve many of the same patrons, said Barbara Hase, who uses both and previously sat on the board of the Hollis Center library.

“People seem to understand how closely the libraries work together,” she said. “It’s not a competition.”

Nearly two-thirds of public libraries in Maine – including the Portland Public Library, the largest public library system in the state – are non-municipal, according to the Maine State Library. Unlike municipal libraries run by towns, non-municipal libraries have a 501(c)3 tax exemption and are governed by boards with at least three members.

For years, the non-municipal Hollis Center Public Library has received about $35,000 from the town to help cover operating expenses. This year, the Select Board voted against putting an already lower $29,000 allocation on the town meeting warrant. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The Hollis Center Public Library has long received money from the town – about $35,000 in recent years – to help cover its roughly $50,000 annual operating costs. This year, the town Select Board wanted to drop that allocation to $29,000 as it looks to trim from the $10 million budget to avoid large tax increases.

After library trustees asked about going to voters at the town meeting in June with a separate request for $6,000 to make up the difference, the board voted to take the $29,000 off the table entirely.


“Shocked. That’s the first word I can think of,” Kathleen Kendrick, chair of the Hollis Center library’s board of trustees, said of the decision.

Over the past three weeks, library trustees and volunteers scrambled to collect the 246 signatures needed to get a funding request on the town meeting warrant. On Friday, the town clerk notified the Select Board that she certified 344 valid signatures. The board likely will decide at its March 29 meeting whether to place the request on the town ballot in June or send it to a special election within 60 days.

Kendrick is optimistic voters will support the library’s request.

“There have been two libraries for so many years and the town has always supported them,” she said.

Kathleen Kendrick, chair of the Hollis Center Public Library Board of Trustees, talks about the signature drive to get funding on the town meeting warrant. “There have been two libraries for so many years and the town has always supported them,” she said. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Resident Jeanne Martin, who brings the toddler she nannies to the library every week, sees the library as an asset to the town, especially for families with children.

“It makes me angry that they have to fight (for funding). It’s frustrating,” she said as she watched 1-year-old Elijah Deschenes play with children’s librarian Nancy Olds on a recent Friday morning.



The question about funding two libraries resurfaced last month when town officials began reviewing budget requests for town departments and from non-municipal organizations, like LifeFlight Maine and the American Red Cross.

The Select Board and finance committee, which both review the budget and make recommendations to voters, agreed to ask voters to allocate $38,800 for the Salmon Falls Library. That was $1,200 less than the library asked for in the annual budget, the primary source of the library’s funding.

But they disagreed about the Hollis Center library, which requested its usual amount of $35,150. Last year, the Select Board cut that by $5,000. This year they wanted to cut it further, but the finance committee unanimously agreed to recommend that the library get the full amount it requested.

However, it’s up to the three members of the Select Board to decide which number goes on the warrant.

Lee Ann Nugent puts items away on a table while her daughter Marlow, 2, looks through items on a shelf in the children’s section of the Hollis Center Public Library earlier this month. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

When a trustee asked what recourse the library had to request the difference from voters, Select Board chairman David McCubrey was quick to answer.


“That’s the easy answer,” he said. “You do a petition and force it to go onto the ballot.”

By the time the Select Board met a week later, it was clear library trustees were planning to circulate a petition. Town officials were concerned it would be confusing and wondered if the town would have to pay double if voters approved the $29,000 article and one from the library requesting a higher amount.

“They refused our $29,000,” said Select Board member John “Jack” Rogala, who made the motion to take the entire amount off the warrant. The board voted 2-1 to remove it, with Mary Hoffman opposed.

Rogala and McCubrey said they support exploring how the two libraries could come together to form one larger, modern library. The idea surfaces periodically and a few years ago was studied by a special town committee, but discussions have always fizzled.

McCubrey said the board was “kind of flabbergasted” that the Hollis Center library trustees were only going to ask the town of Dayton, which doesn’t have its own library, for $1,000. Last year, 33 adults and 15 children from Dayton checked out books from the Hollis Center library. He thinks Dayton should pay its fair share, around $7,000, so the Select Board is “kind of trying to push it in that direction.”

Barbara Hase, former board member of the Hollis Center Public Library, talks about the signature drive to get funding on the Hollis town meeting warrant. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

But the overall town budget also is a concern, McCubrey said, and hard decisions have to be made. The proposed budget of more than $10 million is already up $600,000 and the school budget could increase it even more.


“It’s a tough one. That’s a big hunk of money in a small town,” he said. “We have a lot of people struggling to pay their taxes and heat their homes. It’s a delicate balance.”


Library trustees are frustrated that town leaders said trustees rejected the $29,000 – they did not – and are worried they’ll have to fight for funding each year.

“I’m afraid you’re going to ask us to do this every year going forward. I’m afraid we’re going to spend our time collecting signatures instead of reading kids books,” Heather Sullivan, a library association member who has been collecting signatures, told the Select Board.

Angela Mackie, the library’s treasurer, said cuts will make it difficult for the library to operate without changes such as reducing its hours.

“We’re all concerned that we’re seeing a trend here of it going down every year,” she said. “At some point in time, we’re not going to be able to afford to stay open.”


Elijah Deschenes, 1, opens an atlas in the children’s section of the Hollis Center Public Library. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Kendrick, from the board of trustees, said she and others who collected signatures are encouraged by the show of support from the community.

“That has been the silver lining of all of this,” she said.

Resident Jennifer Laflamme stopped by the library to sign the petition after seeing a friend’s post about it on Facebook. When her kids were young, they often came for story time and she has donated books for the two annual book sales.

“When you think of the town of Hollis and raising families here, you think of this library,” Laflamme said.

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