Friday, December 3, 2010

Local Library Seeks New Ground

By Larry Favinger
Staff Columnist
The Rice Public Library is interested in moving its operation onto the Frisbee School property, and has taken the first step in that direction.
The library, established 1888, currently operates out of two buildings in downtown Kittery, neither of which is handicapped accessible.
The library Board of Directors has voted unanimously to make the move. The town has already proposed that the Kittery Community Center, a theater, and the library be located on the former school site.
Rachel Dennis, chairwoman of the library trustees, said the Frisbee Revitalization Committee has given the library until the end of December to make a final decision.
She said several things had to be done before that decision could be made. These included getting an estimate on the value of the current facilities, a process that is ongoing, and hiring a consultant to look at the options. The buildings are mortgage free.
These options include doing nothing, putting an addition onto the current Rice building, and moving to the Frisbee site.
Ms. Dennis said the consultant’s report is not finalized as yet, “but it was finished enough to give us enough information that we could comfortably vote unanimously that we wanted to move.”
She said the final report will probably be presented to the revitalization committee early in January.
The library is now located in two separate buildings, neither of which is handicapped accessible.
“We’ve had phone calls and letters over the years from people who are in wheel chairs … they can’t get into our buildings,” Ms. Dennis said. “It’s been very, very difficult for us to say ‘there’s nothing we can do.’ The time is right, Frisbee closed. There is something we can do about it now.”
“We’re far away from that,” she said, “but at least we’ve gone that first hurdle and voted that we’re wanting to do this.”
She said the Rice building itself is a wonderful structure but it is “not a library for the 21st century.”
Ms. Dennis said having the community center, the theater and the library on the same property would create “sort of a one stop shop” for the people of the town.
Ms. Dennis said that being in one building is “a big piece for all of us” who have been working with the library over the years.
The library is not a town department but receives about 97 percent of its operating cost from the town.
Kittery Town Manager Jon Carter said the library is one of the “three participants envisioned moving to the property” but noted, “They will have a long way to go.”
Voters have already approved a bond issue for work to begin on the Community Center project.
According to its web site, the library currently contains 54,765 volumes and circulates an average of 71,769 items each year. The web site sets Kittery’s population at just over 9,000 people.
Photo caption: The Rice Public Library in Kittery is beginning the process of moving to a new facility. The Library has until the end of December to make a final decision. (Photo courtesy