Pictured are Tom Eschner, Nancy Crowell, Bill Donovan at the retirement part for Scarborough Public Library Executive Director Nancy Crowell. Eschner is a past president of the Board of Trustees and Donovan is the current board chair. Courtesy photo/Elsa Rowe

Nancy Crowell, executive director of the Scarborough Public Library, is retiring after holding the position for 45 years. In a prepared statement she said, “I realize how fortunate I’ve been to be part of an organization that assesses the needs of the community and responds to them. It’s also been interesting to see how many themes have endured. The concern for the impact of technology on the public library is one.”

A retirement party  in appreciation of  the many years of Crowell’s hard work was held Sept. 10 at the library. “We had a great turnout,” Crowell said, “there was a headcount of 111 people. It was beautifully organized. It was a great send off.”

The party included food, live music, and tributes. Deanna McNamara, youth services manager described the event as “lovely.”

“It was nice to see so many community members gather to reminisce about all of the many wonderful things that Nancy has accomplished over the years.” McNamara said. “It was bittersweet as she will be missed but I cannot wait to see what comes next for Nancy. She is a force and I just know it will be amazing!”

Crowell was born in Buffalo, New York, and then moved to Los Angeles. She went to college in Idaho, and Drexel University in Philadelphia. Her father is a South Portland native, and she moved to Maine when her parents decided to retire in Maine.

Crowell knew she wanted to be a librarian ever since she was a child. “I had it in my veins,” she said. “As a child I moved around the country, and I always appreciated the librarians who made me feel very welcomed and there were always books in the library that were familiar. So, it was as if I had my good friends wherever I lived. I volunteered in libraries in elementary school, and all the way through my life. Ultimately, I knew that that is the career I wanted to pursue. I got my master’s degree in library science.”  Originally, she said she thought she would be a children’s librarian, but later realized she was interested in all aspects of the library.


Crowell’s first professional job was as the Scarborough library director, starting in 1977. She said it allowed her to sample all aspects of the library world. The library building Crowell worked in was a small wooden building on Black Point Road. The library moved to Gorham Road in 1989.

As retirement approached, Crowell knew what she wanted to do something for the library. “Rather than a gold watch, I wanted to raise money for a back-up generator for the library. I have tried for decades to get a backup generator for the library in the municipal budget every year. And each year it is an easy thing to cut because there are a lot of competing interests. I tried to get grants, because the library serves the community in emergency preparedness, and it’s a heating and cooling center, a backup generator has always been an important feature. A generator has always been important to me.”

“So, we decided to have a Nancy’s Generator Fund, “Crowell said. “We have raised over $40,000 toward the generator. It is called the generator fund, not only because of the physical generator, but if we raise money enough for the piece of hardware, the fund can continue because it’s an opportunity to generate and be a catalyst for other ideas and innovations throughout the library. We can keep going with exciting new initiatives.” Donations to Nancy’s Generator Fund will be put towards improvements that will help the library and the community.

Elsa Rowe, community engagement manager, said, “Nancy is all in when it comes to emergency preparedness, and she has always wanted a backup generator in case of emergencies so we can continue to be open during power outages as an emergency spot.”

Crowell is confident the new library director, Chip Schrader, is going to transition to his role seamlessly.

“We are very fortunate Chip is going to be joining us,” Crowell said. The library board conducted a nationwide search and found the right person right here in Maine. “Chip knows the community and he knows our library and its reputation very well,” she said

“My proudest moment is building the library we are in currently,” Crowell said. “We started on Black Point Road in a one-story building. We moved into the current building in 1989.”

Her one regret, she said was “I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to expand before I retired.” A referendum question for an expansion bond was voted down by residents last year.

Once she retires, Crowell said, she plans to relax for a little bit. “I haven’t had a long vacation in a while. I’m just going to be a civilian for a little while.” She said shes plans to continue to be involved and engaged with the community.

Nancy Crowell with model of “new” library, built in 1989. Elsa Rowe

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