Library expects surge in business; gets grants for roof, tech upgrades

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FARMINGTON – The library is looking at several new projects as it moves forward and, according to the head librarian, it couldn’t come at a better time. Most recently, the library learned it would receive $21,000 for its roof renovation project.

“Libraries are in an important place right now,” Farmington Public Library’s Melanie Taylor Coombs said, “considering where we are economically, we expect to see more and more people. That’s very exciting.”

Coombs had already initiated several new programs at the library. The online museum project, for instance, is currently underway thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Maine Historical Society and a partnership between the library, Farmington Historical Society and local educators in MSAD 9 and the University of Maine at Farmington. That group is digitalizing local historical photographs and documents for display online, accompanied by a general overview of the town’s history.

The historic Farmington Library is undergoing roof repairs, while inside, several new programs are in the works, thanks to the grant writing talent of librarian Melanie Taylor Coombs.

That work will start tomorrow, utilizing a specialized scanner.

The library building itself is being upgraded as well. A major roof renovation has been partially completed, with the external slate portion restored. Insulation and some more work in the attic is still required however.

That project got a big boost when the Maine Library Commission approved a New Century grant for the renovation. The $21,000 grant, Coombs said, is a big help to a fundraising effort being conducted during a troubled economic period.

“We’re really excited to get the grant, of course,” she said, “but we still have a long way to go.”

The Board of Trustees will be meeting soon to see if and how future fundraising efforts should proceed.

Technological upgrades represent another area which the Farmington Public Library seeks to improve. The board will consider at the end of the month whether to sign up with an audio book program through the Maine InfoNet. That would let patrons of the library download and listen to more than 1,000 audio book titles on their Mp3 players or computers.

Thanks to yet another New Century grant, the fee for the service is only $500 annually to the library. Coombs noted that a new audio book in a CD or tape format cost more than $60, or even more than $100 if the library opted for the more resilient “library-formatted” version.

“This is another case of making this material economically feasible to carry,” Coombs said. “The best thing is, as new books become popular the list [of downloadable material] grows.”

Of course, you need access to a computer. Luckily, through a Gates grant (librarians file a lot of grant requests) Coombs believes that seven new public access computers will be installed next year.

This is good, because she has already seen a rise in the use of those machines, with more than 400 people accessing them last month alone. The faster, more modern machines will allow people unable to afford a computer or dedicated high-speed connection to access what they need in a more timely fashion.

Under the glass dome at the Farmington Public Library.

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