HOPE — It might come as a bit of a shock to people accustomed to expecting the Hope Library will always stay open, but soon, unless the Board of Directors finds more volunteers to fill the chronic shortage of staff and Board of Directors, it’s a very real possibility that the doors might be permanently closed.
Sydney Hall, a Board member and coordinator of staff, said many people naturally presume that the library is a town entity, just like Camden or Rockport libraries.
“Even though we are a nonprofit and the grant money we do get is for new books and updating equipment, there are no funds to hire staff,” said Hall. “Volunteers are doing everything they can, but even when scheduled to work, things come up and they can’t always be there. Some of us have been volunteering at the library for the past 15 years and truthfully, some of us are burned out,” she said.
Though retired, Hall easily clocks in eight hours each week between organization and staffing the library.
Books have been available in that town office space for about 25 years when the library was more of the model of a Little Free Library on the honor system.
In 2012, the town office expanded the space; and with a grant, the library added new furniture and computer equipment. Today, the library is open whenever the town office is open and even if a librarian isn’t there, patrons can still check out books on the honor system, something Hall said, “by and large works like a dream.”
The population of the town of Hope is approximately 1,500 and of those citizens, approximately 500 people hold a Hope Library card.
Books are not its only valuable resource.
Without more people power, Hall said, "Our community will lose access to the books we now have, the download library for eBooks and audio books, high speed internet (WiFi) available in the library, access to the Digital Maine Library, including thousands of magazines, newspapers, and reference books including Ancestry.com, and the Learning Express, an online resource for students of all ages, all of which comes through our affiliation with the Maine State Library.”
In addition, the library space, equipped with audio-visual equipment, is used for monthly speakers on educational topics.
“The purpose of the library is to be a community center and that refers to our ability to offer free WiFi as well as access to books and other materials,” said Hall. “We like to think we can provide a place that is physically closer to our citizens in Hope. If we can’t, Hope will become just a suburb of the coastal cities.”
On April 30, the library held a social in the hopes of attracting more interested people.
Hall said about nine people showed up, mostly residents of Hope and mostly retirees.
Two people signed up as volunteers, and three people expressed interest, but the hours that the library could be technically open didn’t mesh up with their available volunteer hours. The library is still reaching out to the community for more, both as staff as members of the board of directors. The current library’s hours are tied to the town office’s hours, but if more volunteers express a willingness to work when the town office is closed, the board of directors will consider that option in their next meeting.
To see the library’s current hours, background information and resources, visit: Hope Library
For interested volunteers: email email@example.com or call 207-763-3553.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org