500 members and growing

Hope Library a strong rural community center with innovative resources

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 9:15am

HOPE — Nestled in the Hope Town Office, right at the heart of Hope Corner, is a special place. A small, but well-appointed library that offers an impressive number of resources to its members and the community.

The Hope Library underwent a renovation about four years ago, according to members of the organization's board of directors. While it occupies a space in the town office building — and the town supplies utilities along with the facility — the library itself is an independent 501(c)(3) organization. That means that all of the fundraising for the library's programs, books, and resources must occur independently.

During the past four years, the all-volunteer library has experienced a transformation. Its online presence has allowed the library to provide resources, including an online catalog and access to the Maine State Library. The facility itself has two computers that members can use, and offers free wi-fi 24 hours a day, which can even be accessed from outside the building.

Members of the board of directors noted that the library has an especially strong children's selection, and an eclectic selection of Maine-centric books; however, they said that they work diligently to curate the materials available at the library in order to assure they have current and relevant titles on the shelves.

"The [digital presence] makes the library even more accessible to the community," said board member Nancy Connon.

Additionally, Kindles are available for check-out. The Kindles are loaded with popular titles for various age groups, including small children, young adults, and adults. The library has also introduced a selection of DVDs and audiobooks, both of which the library did not previously offer.

"Many of us have a real heart for children's literature," said board member Debbie Stockwell.

The directors recently hired consultant Yvonne Gloede, formerly the director of the Jackson Memorial Library, to assist them in promoting the evolution of the community library. Gloede said that she envisions the library having more events and programs in the near future.

"Libraries are evolving into community centers," said board member Sydney Hall. Hall and the board agreed that the Hope Library aims to be just that.

Additionally, membership in the Hope Library is not limited to residents alone. Patrons who are not residents of Hope can opt to pay a $10 fee for a library card.

Currently, the Hope Library has approximately 500 members, and they would like to see more. Board members collectively noted that recent additions to the library make it a good time for people who may not have visited the library in a while to do so.

The board said the library provides an excellent resource for home-schoolers, and even for adults awaiting the conclusion of soccer practice that takes place on the nearby fields in season.

Art shows are among the events that the library has already begun hosting, and it has featured local artists, including Jamie Wiggin. The library has also hung art by students, and even hosted a show featuring Sydney Hall's family — notable artists in the community.

Connon added that the library's book club has been successful, meeting once a month. They will celebrate their four-year anniversary in November.

"We have loyal members, wonderful contributors," Connon said of the book club which is always accepting new members. More information about membership is available on the library's website.

Gloede said that events in discussion include talks on "just about anything, there are such varied interests."

She said ideas include nature, food, gardening, foraging, art and more. Additionally, the library hopes to schedule author talks which have been popular at other community libraries. Gloede said she envisions special programs occurring on a weekly basis.

Drop-in tech help is another offering that the library has tried and hopes to continue. Scheduling tech help sessions saves people from having to drive long distances to receive computer advice.

"It's a great way to get people through the door," Gloede said.

The library is available during the hours the town office is open, with (volunteer) staffed hours currently available Tuesday 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Thursday, noon to 4 p.m., and Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

When there is not a volunteer at the desk, a manual log is used to check materials out on the honor system.

The board said the library is always looking for volunteers to perform a number of duties, and that there is a volunteer task to suit every skill-set. Volunteer shifts typically run two to four hours.

The directors have observed a true interest and need for the offerings of the library, noting that some rural households do not have the internet, and some choose not to. In those instances, the library has been a resource for students to do homework that requires online materials. Directors recalled a young man who used the library regularly to do his schoolwork, and is now headed to a prestigious college.

"We're not a stuffy library," Hall said, smiling. Her sentiment was echoed with a round of approving nods from other board members.

The board of directors at the Hope Library includes library Director Beth Guiseley, Debbie Stockwell, Judith Jones, Nancy Connon, Theresa Withee, Sydney Hall, and Jean Ettlinger.

To learn more about the Hope Library, visit their website.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Reach Jenna Lookner at jlooknercopy@gmail.com