A Little History of the Scarborough Public Library

For over one hundred years the library has served as the common ground and heart of the community. Toward the turn of the 20th century, a group of women and men of the First Parish Church on the Black Point Road, collected and shared their books. This idea of sharing became so popular that on August 2, 1899, the first meeting was held of people desiring to become incorporated as proprietors of a social library, with seven present. These seven appeared before a Justice of the Peace and thus the Scarboro Public Library Corporation was organized and recorded. Seven people demonstrated more than 100 years ago that a strong desire to share books could build a library.Picture of the old Scarborough Public Library

The journal of library minutes illustrates how, day by day, that library grew and how the purposeful vision of the first trustees endured. Immediately by-laws were drawn up, officers elected, and on December 6, 1899, at a meeting of Trustees at the home of Sarah Libby, it was voted to build a library building for the use of the Scarborough Public Library Corporation. Architect Frederick A. Tompson donated his time and drew up the plans for a one room building.

A fireplace provided the only source of heat for the first few years. Records show no mention of any heating device until 1907, when a stove was purchased. Later a wood burning furnace was installed and eventually it was converted to burn oil. Kerosene lamps were used at first and one remains as a decoration in the current library. When electric lights were first installed, the power was provided by the adjacent Black Point Church.

Early Benefactors

Annie Louise Cary Raymond, world famous opera singer and summer patroness of the Atlantic House, established the Atlantic House Fund for the benefit of the library. Her interest was to continue until her death in 1921, at which time a trust fund was left for the Library.

During the Great War a young Scarborough resident died. On April 29, 1919 a special meeting was called by the Board President on receipt of a letter from Charles E. Libby. "It is my wish to make some public memorial for my deceased son, Lucien Taylor Libby . . . I will deposit $1,000, the income therefrom to be withdrawn semi- annually and to be expended by your Board for books for the library." The words of an anguished father established a fund which for 82 years has continued to serve its intended purpose.

Another guest of the Atlantic House, Margaret Jewell, gave generously to the building fund, and upon her death in 1970 she left an endowment fund to the library. (This endowment was largely depleted in 1976 with the addition to the rear of the building.)

Over the years many appreciated donations have been made to the library in various forms: books; memorial funds; furnishings; and volunteer time. Even small gifts were recorded and appreciated. On September 29, 1951, it was noted: "The knob on the front door, donated by Mrs. Stevens was admired by all members."


The first meeting of trustees was held in the new library building, on August 28, 1900. At that time the library hours were set for every Friday from one to five o'clock and so they remained for many years.

Trustee minutes include a note from residents delighted to serve on the board. In a September 27, 1938 letter to the library clerk accepting a position after election as a Trustee : "I am, as I think you already know, always glad to do anything I can to promote our neighborhood welfare; and this action of your Board makes it possible for me to continue to do so in closer connection with my neighbors. Thanking you for the privilege . . . Faithfully yours, J. Hartley Merrick."

Expansion Looms

In 1937, the trustees felt an expansion to the building was necessary, town officials were approached, and the town purchased land on the south side of the building from Emery Moody. Mrs. Addie Kaler-Vaill made a gift of two additional parcels of land on the north and west sides of the building, and so an addition to the little one-room library was assured. Funds were raised by whist parties held in homes, high school students held a beano and whist party, and families within the community were solicited for funds. The north wing, known as the Fiction Room, was completed in 1938.

Miss Jewell started another building fund in 1947 which reached $1100, and by 1951 plans were underway for a further addition. The town made a contribution of $1000 and three trustees contributed another $1200. The south wing was completed in October 1951 to become the Reference Room.

In 1930 the trustees discussed asking the town for financial aid, but no receipt of money is shown until 1934 when the town meeting voted the sum of $100. Since that date, the town has included the library in its budget, appropriating more as the town has grown, and use and appreciation of the value of a good library has become apparent. By 1977 the yearly budget was $35,000.

Growth Continues with Renovation

In 1976 the library underwent extensive renovation. An addition was made to the rear of the building for a much needed expansion of the children's section. The circulation desk was moved to a central location and an office added. Beneath this new area a public meeting room was built and some storage space provided.

Although the library was started by only seven people, it has always been, and continues to be a library for the whole town supported by the townspeople. By 1978, the library employed six people, served several hundred people per month, and was open every afternoon, one morning, and two evenings during the week.


Over the period of 100 years, although the records are vague, we know that the following have served as librarians. Beginning with Emery Moody, who was paid 50 cents a week, we note the following : Ann Libby; Lena Skillings Plummer; Daisy Larrabee, who served twenty-five years; Mary Sparrow; Edith Googins; Clara Emmons Iverson; Constance Feidler; Cori Arsenault; and Nancy Crowell, MLS, who joined the library in 1977. "Nancy deserves much credit for being on the leading edge of technology development for libraries and is one of the leaders in Maine libraries-- helping all of us meet this challenge." J. Gary Nichols, State Librarian—August 22, 1997.

Into the Future

The Scarborough Public Library, as we know it today, has grown well beyond the expectations of its founders. Nonetheless, it continues to follow in the tradition of other libraries in New England. The library, like more than half of those in the state, operates as a private, nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation. A Board of Trustees made up of 14 residents (including one appointed member of the Town Council and the Vice President of the Friends of the Library ) is responsible for policy, planning and fiscal control of the corporation. Funds to operate the library come primarily, but not exclusively, from the town. Each year, a library budget is presented to the Town Council using the same procedures and undergoing the same scrutiny required of town departments. Following an informal procedure established in 1934, and operating under a memorandum of understanding, municipal officials and library trustees cooperate in providing library services without charge to residents of the community.

A new library building, located in the central Oak Hill area, opened in 1990 after a successful community-wide fundraising drive. The one floor building of 12,000 square feet is a blend of the various architectural styles prevalent in the community. It is fully equipped with an ethernet backbone and a high-speed T1 connection to the Internet that combine to provide instant access to information at any time.Twenty-one computers with Internet access and various software programs are available for public use. Two Early Literacy computers for children pre-school to age 8—complete with software—are popular additions to the youth services area.

In 2002 the Library trustees undertook several studies to identify space deficiencies and operational inefficiencies in the current building, so that planning might begin for for the next decade of growth in the community. That planning effort continued in 2004 with the hiring of an architect to conduct an existing conditions study and develop architectural drawings for an expansion. In June 2006 voters narrowly defeated a proposed expansion and renovation of the existing library.