Originally published in Castine Patriot, February 6, 2020
Witherle Memorial Library repeats star performance
by Sharon Bray
Among Maine’s public libraries of similar size, Witherle Memorial continues to be recognized for its service to the community as once again The Library Journal awarded Witherle three stars. The award follows both four and three-star ratings in previous years.
Staff and people who use the library, including residents of Castine and neighboring communities, express enthusiasm for the wide range of services beyond books and print materials on the shelves.
Keeping up with technology, Witherle offers free internet access and use of computers and accessories. Librarian Anne Romans says automation now helps with cataloging, keeping track of circulation, and research on related subjects.
Other services currently include delivery of reading material to area people unable to visit the library, equipment for improved hearing at programs, and the wide assortment of programs and discussions. Programs, said Romans, are funded by Friends of Witherle Memorial Library.
The organized friends and other volunteers “provide financial, volunteer, and program assistance to help fulfill library needs not easily met through its normal funding sources,” according to Romans.
Upcoming programs include discussion of a recently acquired healthy living book with Gordana Hassett and RaeAnn Hodgkin from the Castine Health Center. An arts and crafts program for adults is also in the works.
Staff and friends currently are working on grants related to the Maine Bicentennial. “Grants,” said Romans, “improve everything” for Witherle. One grant is in use for additions to books on life and history of Maine’s Wabanaki tribes.
Book and other print resource collections also continue to be updated. Assistant librarians Irene Hall, Kathryn Dillon, and Rich Hewitt have worked with community volunteers to expand the collection of magazines, including a number for children. A number of new children’s subscriptions have been paid for by different members of the community.
Pointing to many shelves full of large-print books, Romans said years ago few people showed interest in the books. A recent increase in requests for the easier-to-read large print has led to significant expansion. The librarian said she bases new acquisitions on what she finds specific people are reading.
Part of the numbers of books in circulation each year include those from inter-library loan, for which Witherle both borrows and lends books on request. Witherle belongs to Minerva, a statewide library collaborative. The library gets two deliveries of interlibrary loans each week, and the service is free to library users paid for by the Minerva consortium and the Maine State Library. According to Romans, books not available in Maine are researched by Bangor Public Library and ,if available, they come to Witherle from all around the country. That service is generally free for readers but there are charges occasionally. Last year local interlibrary loans involved “close to 4,000 books.”
Witherle Memorial is the oldest municipal library in Maine, according to its website. With a grant from the estate of the late Deborah Pulliam, the historic Beaux Arts structure, built in 1913, was expanded in 2013 to increase handicapped accessibility, computer space and the children’s area.
A municipally elected board of trustees governs finances, policies and operations of the library. Professional librarian Romans and other staff oversee day-to-day operations and services.