Q. Why do we need an expanded Library?
A. In 1888, the Rice Building was built to serve a population of less than 4,000 residents, and has an interior layout no longer suitable for a modern library. Neither the Rice nor the Taylor building are fully accessible to residents, and crossing the busy street jeopardizes the safety of those wishing to borrow books or items from both buildings. The separation also makes staff communications and book deliveries challenging, with staff hauling a whopping 18,564 pounds of books between the two buildings each year. In addition, maintaining two buildings is costly and inefficient.
Q. Voters have already approved a $5 million bond for the building? Why are you seeking additional private contributions?
A. The $5 million bond is paying for the basic construction of the addition and upgrades to the Rice. Our campaign goal is to provide private donations for the so-called “soft elements” that is, furnishings, equipment, technology needs and landscaping. One way to think of the distinction is to visualize turning the building upside down and giving it a shake. What remains intact are the fundamental building elements—the walls, floors, elevator, and the like. What falls out are the essential additions that will create an attractive, comfortable, optimally functional facility.
Q. What kinds of technology will fundraising support?
A. The new building will contain a wide array of systems and equipment encompassing all of the elements of a modern, state-of-the-art library with the capacity to continue to evolve as new advancements emerge. For example, the Community Room and Story Time area will feature an audio-visual projection system; in the Community Room, this system will include streaming capacity and a hearing-assistance system. The Business Center/Multi-Media Conference Room will include smart board technology for presentations and conference calls. Other useful tools include computers in the E-Commons and charging stations throughout the building.
Q. Instead of building an addition to the Rice Building, why aren’t we using rooms at the Kittery Community Center?
A. The primary program rooms at the KCC – the Star Theater and Community Room — are often already booked, which limits scheduling options and the types of programs the Library can provide. Also, most programs are library-specific; that is, closely linked to the Library building itself, such as Story Time where children often leave with a backpack full of books. Holding activities at the Library also gives patrons the opportunity conveniently to take advantage of the Library’s other offerings: for instance, to borrow books, use a computer, conduct genealogical research, etc.
Q. How long will this new library serve our community?
A. The new Library has been planned to meet the community’s needs for decades to come. It is expected to be big enough and structurally sound for at least 60 years. The need for any additional expansion or updating in the future would be dependent, for example, on a population explosion or radical change in the Library’s purposes. A great deal of flexibility has been incorporated into the design to permit rearrangement of the various spaces as citizens’ needs, materials, technological, and programming requirements may change over time. What’s more, the durable materials and energy-saving systems integrated into the building design will help to ensure long-term sustainability, low environmental impact, and cost containment. The Rice building has served the community well for over 130 years. We expect the new building will have a similarly long shelf-life.
Q. How will the new Library affect operating costs and my taxes?
A. The Town has planned in advance for the debt service for this project. Annual debt service is expected to be absorbed within the existing annual capital spending levels. For this reason, there is no anticipated spike or tax increase resulting directly from the project. In addition, regarding the operating budget, at this time there is no anticipated increase in staffing, and no plans to expand library-related expenses. The recently created Library Advisory Committee (which has deferred meetings because of Covid-19) will begin to draft a five-year strategic plan in 2021-2022.
Q. Why do we need to build a larger building when libraries are going to be obsolete because information and books can be obtained on the internet and in varied ways?
A. Here and across the country, public libraries are, in fact, busier than ever, and Kittery’s library statistics support this trend. The role of our town Library is rapidly evolving, continually offering more helpful services and programs, access to the latest technology as well as leisure reading and informational materials in an array of formats. As patrons come to the library to take part in a program, to pick up a movie, or to use a computer, they are also borrowing more printed books!
The Library helps to create a sense of community in Kittery, whether among parents attending Story Hour, teens gathering for a craft activity, or older adults enjoying a book discussion group. Libraries stimulate interest in reading and learning for all — even people who no longer use the library often, but still recall the pleasure of visiting the library as kids.
Occasionally we also hear “I don’t use the library because I can afford to purchase my own books, or I can get information on my own computer. So why should I support it?” Consider families with children, seniors on fixed incomes, the self-employed, or our many local small business owners and others who want to stretch their budgets. These are our neighbors and friends who may prefer to borrow rather than buy a book or movie, read newspapers or magazines for free instead of signing up for costly subscriptions, or to save a bundle by using the computers with access to the internet and various software programs at the Library at no cost. Others may simply want to reduce their carbon footprint; save a few trees and limit the stuff that ends up in the landfill. The public library is the original recycling center and as libraries transform, they are transforming communities! Besides, a trip to the Library is always a fun adventure.
Q. Who will benefit from this new Library?
A. Virtually everyone, directly and indirectly. The new Library will be a central place that fosters cultural awareness, personal intellectual discovery, and social interaction. Where young children are introduced to the joy of reading. Where older kids develop lifelong skills to succeed in school, their future careers, and in life. Where business people can access software programs and data, use the Business Center to make calls, or host a meeting. Where job-seekers can get advice on creating a resume, research employment opportunities, and submit applications. Where adults can borrow the books they’ve been wanting to read (in-hand or downloaded), participate in a cultural activity or hands-on, how-to class; and simply have a reason to get up and out of the house to read the paper or a magazine, or to meet friends in a congenial, everyone’s-welcome place. The Rice Library staff will be able to continue to go the extra mile to offer an extraordinary range of useful services, from technical instruction for the digitally challenged, obtaining tax forms, or tracking down special book requests.
The new Library also will benefit the town as a whole by providing a valuable asset to make Kittery more appealing as a great place to live and work, and as a hub of citizen, interaction to encourage a stronger sense of community. In addition to the personal enrichment the town Library offers to residents, it is also cost-effective and provides substantial financial value to the community. A tally of the items and assistance provided in 2019 – including items available to borrow (books, DVDs, music, etc), programs for all ages, hours of computer and Wi-Fi use, and thousands of questions answered − showed a total monetary value of more than $2,063,490.
The cost to taxpayers to support the Library in 2019 was $422,813. That’s a whopping savings of $4.88 for every $1.00 of taxpayer investment!