Over her 45-year career, Nancy Crowell has led Scarborough Public Library through myriad changes as it adopts new technology and adapts to patrons’ changing needs. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

Scarborough Public Library Director Nancy Crowell announced her upcoming retirement last week after 45 years that have brought big changes to the library and the community it serves.

When Crowell took the job in 1977, the small town library was on Black Point Road next to the First Congregational Church, moving to its current location off Gorham Road in 1989. It had a few hundred cardholders and its 16-millimeter projector, to be followed by Beta and VHS tapes, was as high-tech as it got.

“The community changed as well, so it wasn’t just the world of libraries,” Crowell told The Forecaster in an interview this week. During that time, the typical family with a stay-at-home mom transitioned into two-income families, and “the way people used libraries and the time they had available to use libraries changed.”

Crowell purchased the library’s first electric typewriter, and later she and her colleagues introduced the library’s first computers, forever changing its services and its role in the community.

“Her institutional knowledge during a changing landscape for our community has made her an invaluable member of town leadership for several decades,” Town Manager Tom Hall told The Forecaster. “She and the library have also been incredible community partners in many Scarborough events over the years, from Summerfest, to Project GRACE’s fundraising efforts, Scarborough Land Trust programs, emergency preparedness and more.”

Scarborough Public Library Executive Director Nancy Crowell and Board of Trustees President Bill Donovan. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

While leading the library through its evolution, Crowell has consistently supported a wide range of activities and services, said Bill Donovan, president of the Library Board of Trustees.


“Sketching clubs, knitting clubs, speakers, movie nights,” Donovan said. “She supports the IRS’s program for low-income people needing help with their tax returns … and it goes on and on.”

Donovan also credited Crowell for attracting some of the best library talent there is to Scarborough.

“She’s got that effective ability to hire people who will independently come up with things,” he said. “Most of her senior leadership have advanced library degrees. There are a couple of universities in the United States that are renowned for that, so it’s a high-level staff she’s been able to attract.”

She got an early start in her own career. In second grade, she and her classmates were taught by their school librarian how to bind a book.

“When I had that first chance to handle a brand new book, hear the pages crinkle and crack, that was apparently addicting,” she said.

She’d spend her school lunch periods shelving books and in sixth grade was allowed to tell stories to the younger children.


She soon became the only elementary school student to be allowed to volunteer at her local public library.

“I knew what I was doing, apparently, or at least they let me believe that,” she said.

Her experience as a Girl Scout also has come in handy in her adult career, she said, for teamwork, making presentations and managing budgets.

“We’ll have a finance report. I’ll ask Nancy if she’d like to make any comments, and she’ll go into all these little details like a business manager, a person who has run a large facility,” Donovan said. “For 45 years, she’s been on top of every aspect of (the library).”

Crowell was a key player in the library’s push for a major expansion last year. Residents voted down the project in November, but supporters emphasize the need for more space still exists.

“I hope to support whatever the next phase is in some way,” she said. “I want to be respectful of the incoming director and the direction that the board wants to go.”


She’ll continue as executive director until September, and then she has some plans for retirement.

“I’m gonna read,” she said with a laugh. “Something beyond professional literature.”

She also wants to get involved in the Scarborough community outside the library.

“I’d like to spend more time in my community in a way that doesn’t include the title of my profession,” she said. “I look forward to being involved in other ways.”

In all her years at the library, Crowell said she has learned some valuable lessons, but none more important than “don’t pre-judge, whether that’s people or information or sources; be open,” she said.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover, or people either.”

Comments are not available on this story.