MILLINOCKET, MAINE — The Millinocket Memorial Library and community supporters broke ground recently on a visionary $1.85-million renovation that will re-invent the library as a vital community hub with expanded services.
The project symbolizes a remarkable turn-around for the library, which closed for several months in 2015 due to financial constraints. Community members rallied to form a non-profit organization to operate the library and re-opened it in September 2015.
“So many people and organizations have contributed to bring us to this groundbreaking today,” said Matt DeLaney, director of the library. “From the Friends group and volunteers who reopened the library, to individuals and foundations that donated to the renovation campaign, to the town, our board and volunteers, and the Northern Forest Center, which facilitated a New Markets Tax Credit financing to help make this project possible.”
Since reopening in 2015, the library has expanded its offerings beyond traditional library services to include computer lending and classes, outdoor equipment lending through its Katahdin Gear Library, and innovative partnerships with other organizations to address food insecurity, access to transportation, and other urgent community challenges.
“There’s so much more we can offer the community,” said DeLaney. “Our renovation will create more community meeting spaces, a new children’s room, and a safer, more energy-efficient facility. We’ll open the Katahdin Think Tank, a state-of-the-art conference room for educators, businesses, nonprofits, and the library. And we’ll have a new, fully accessible entry way.
“When our Capital Campaign Committee went out asking for support, the community and the state’s philanthropic foundations responded,” said DeLaney, referring to the nearly $1.3 million that the library raised for the project. “The balance of the project funding comes through state and federal New Markets Tax Credits, which were essential to helping us meet our goal.” The library completed the tax credits transaction on August 20.
“We’re so happy to be able to use our expertise in New Markets Tax Credit financing to help the library pull in the final piece of its funding,” said Rob Riley, president of the Northern Forest Center. “I want to thank our partners — Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Bangor Savings Bank — for providing tax credits and investment capital to make this financing possible.
“The Center is an innovation and investment partner for the Northern Forest region,” said Riley. “We help fill gaps in communities, bringing capital investment together with our program delivery to strengthen rural communities through projects like this, and by investing in innovations in the forest economy of the region.”
The Town of Millinocket is supporting the new library project by leasing the building to the library’s nonprofit organization for $1 a year for 60 years. “The Future Library Project has been so good for the town,” said Cody McEwen, chair of the Millinocket Town Council. “It has been a pleasure to see the library — a center of every community — thrive. The renovated space and new services will be great additions, and the success of the project is a symbol of the new energy and commitment in town for building a strong future for Millinocket.”
The renovated library expects to open in spring 2020 as a vibrant community hub that will make itself available to other organizations that offer services such as career counseling, computer learning, health, wellness, and nutrition programs, counseling and community engagement.
“Everyone who supported this project believes in the future of Millinocket,” said Ed Girsa, chair of the library board of trustees, “and that includes our one-of-a-kind library director Matt DeLaney, who chose to move to Millinocket because of the possibilities here. He’s set out a great vision for the future of our library, and we’re on our way. We’re so grateful for everyone’s support.” The Maine Library Association named DeLaney the Outstanding Librarian of the Year in 2018.
Major contributors to the Future Library Project include individuals who contributed a total of more than $515,000 to the capital campaign, plus more than $763,000 combined from the Next Generation Foundation, Elmina B. Sewell Foundation, US Department of Agriculture, The Nature Conservancy, Stephen & Tabitha King Foundation, Davis Family Foundation, John T. Gorman Foundation, Katahdin Federal Credit Union, Bangor Savings Bank, Northern Forest Center, and the Morton Kelley Foundation.
The commercial construction firm Nickerson & O’Day, which constructed the original Millinocket library building in 1963, is renovating the library. “It means so much to us to be back to update this building for the people of Millinocket,” said Karleton Ward, president and CEO of Nickerson & O’Day. “We’re proud that the original building served so well for over 50 years and are excited to bring the team’s vision to reality for the next 50 years and longer.”