Orono Public Library planning for massive expansion

Published: Jun. 26, 2023 at 7:03 PM EDT
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ORONO, Maine (WABI) - The Orono Public Library is getting ready for its next chapter.

Last week, we reported more than $4.5 million has been earmarked for regional libraries in a 2024 federal funding bill.

The Orono Public Library is set to get $3.6 million of that. The rest would go to Porter Memorial Library in Machias and the Millinocket Memorial Library.

While the bill still needs approval from the full Congress, the announcement is setting the wheels in motion in Orono.

“It’s been something that we’ve been dreaming of for years, and then for probably the last year and a half or so, the Foundation has really been trying to lay the groundwork to get an expansion off the ground,” said James Jackson Sanborn, president, Orono Library Foundation.

The team pulled together an application for the funding in less than two weeks.

They needed to include three endorsement letters from community members.

They got 37.

“There was one mom who spoke about how this became the first place she brought her child who was a preemie and had to stay home for a year or two. And then, when he could finally come out, she brought him here to the library. And, it has become kind of their place to be,” said Laurie Carpenter, library director.

The goal of this project is to make sure there’s more stories like that in the future.

They’re planning for a massive expansion that would double the existing building to 12,000 square feet.

“The building itself is great. The staff is amazing. The community has a lot of love for the library and a lot of support for the library. And, it just really needs some additional space so that we can meet the needs of the community,” said Sanborn.

The project would focus on building out the kids and teen sections, a new community room, quiet areas, and private space for staff.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, more planning to be done,” Carpenter said.

“This is a major step in the marathon of work that needs to be pulled together to plan a capital campaign, work with the town of Orono, do everything that we need to do within the guidelines of the funding. They’re not going to simply hand us a check and say, ‘Good luck.’ They’re going to hand us a check and say, ‘Here are all the things that you need to do.’ So, we will be very happy to do those things,” said Alicia Nichols, campaign manager, Orono Public Library.

Orono Public Library is contracting with Bangor-based company Haley Ward on the project’s design.

While there’s no finalized price tag yet, it’s expected to run upwards of $6 million.

Fundraising for the difference will begin soon.