Veterans’ Memorial Library, Patten’s town library, was built as a United Baptist Church in the 1850’s and was signed over to the Town of Patten on January 01, 1928, and became the town’s library. The building has served the community well as a library in the following 92 years when it was closed by the town on October 07, 2020, due to structural issues. The town closed the Patten Gym at that same time and for the same reasons which had been revealed following an examination by Maine Municipal Association (MMA) after being consulted to provide an insurance quote on town buildings in the hope of reducing the insurance premiums.
The library’s Board of Trustees began exploring a way to continue having a library while awaiting the determination of the town’s citizens at a public meeting. The selectmen hired a structural engineering firm to evaluate the buildings and estimate repair costs. Note that these plans can be viewed on the town’s website of www.pattenmaine.org. In February 2021, the trustees began meeting with Matt DeLaney, the then Director of Millinocket Library, as he along with his board had been successful obtaining over $1.5 million through grants and a capital fund campaign in five years of his leadership and the offering of innovative programs. While Millinocket Memorial Library is a significantly larger library, the goal of the trustees was and is to have a library that will serve the next generation of users.
The trustees wanted to ensure that a library was open in Patten for the area citizens while the town could evaluate the needs of all town departments, including the library. In order to provide a library, the trustees began the search for a new location and explored a number of possibilities before requesting a space at the Lumbermen’s Museum. We were extremely pleased when the board of the museum agreed to rent us a space for a year with the option to continue the agreement. We were able to open our library at the museum in September 2021.
During these months Doris DeRespino decided to retire after serving as our dedicated librarian for twenty years. The town hired a new librarian, Julie Buhler, who has a bachelor’s degree in Library and Information Science, to become the new librarian. The trustees were pleased that Mrs. Buhler has volunteered for three and half years at the Millinocket Memorial Library (MML) as she is familiar with emptying a library in order to prepare for renovations along with offering innovative programming. We have found MML and their new interim director, Diana Furukawa to be most helpful. They have been available to answer questions, allowing our library to expand our offerings through their interlibrary loan service, donating extra copies of books, and other resources. The trustees decided to create a group called The Friends of Veterans’ Memorial Library as a non-profit so they could begin applying for grants and accept tax free donations. The Friends had to have Articles of Incorporation, bylaws, a mission statement, and an employee identification number that were recognized by the State of Maine in order to apply for a 501(c)(3) which makes an organization recognized by the IRS so donors can make tax deductible donations. We have sent out a mailing to local and area businesses requesting donations in case those businesses have funds at the end of this fiscal year that they might donate. We are also beginning the grant writing process.
Please know that the library remains a town department so what becomes of the building remains in the hands of voters. The building has foundation issues, is not ADA compliant, may have radon issues, and we now know from moving books to the museum that we have a considerable mold issue. The building also needs a new roof. The mold did require that some books be discarded when mold was discovered when all books were vacuumed and washed prior to moving. Should you decide to make a donation to The Friends, please know that at this time, we do not know whether or not the town will decide to repair the building. The lot does not allow for the construction of an addition as it has 82.5’ of frontage; is 120’ in depth on one side and 126’ on the other side; and is 66’ wide in the back of the lot. Neighboring lots on either side of the library are 330’ in depth.
The trustees have voted unanimously to support the construction of a new building as they believe a new facility is required for the next generation of users. The trustees would like to have the current library restored and perhaps become part of the Historical Society; however, the Historical Society has a building that has structural needs and is currently not open to the public nor offering programming. Currently, The Friends is hoping to raise funds to construct a new building for the community. Should there be sufficient donations or grants obtained that would permit both a new building and a renovation of the current building, The Friends would support both options. The final decision rests with voters.
Written by Rae Bates