Thursday, October 23, 2014

Raymond Village Library offering a huge community service from a small place - By Michelle Libby

The Raymond Village Library, under the direction of librarian and library director Sally Holt, is busting at the seams with books for all ages, computers, study areas and even a telescope. 

“Books are very personal. They can teach you something,” said Holt. “The library is a place people love.” However, libraries are changing and with it librarians have to adapt to be librarians in the library, on the Internet and out of the library. Raymond Village Library (RVL) has increased membership, circulation and patron visits over the last year, Holt said. “In fact, everything is up.” Adult programs take place most Wednesday nights range from author chats to adult education programs. Last year there were 33 programs and attendance was at 599 people.

“This is a wonderful launching pad for new authors. The oral tradition talks about who we are and helps to build a closer relationship with the town,” said Holt. Children’s programs like story time happened 90 times with 2,395 children attending. 

The library has been in existence since the early 1900s but it looked a lot different. “Books were placed "in the parlors of Mrs. Atwood Tukey, Mrs. Lulu Burdge and Mrs. Andrew Leavitt, in Mrs. John Hayden's stable, Albert Plummer's front hall, and in one of the entries of the Village Church," according to the late Eleanor Plummer, one of the founding members of the Raymond Woman's Club, who organized the library. 

Today’s library on Route 121 was built in 1969 and was financed entirely by fundraisers the Woman’s Club held. In 1979, the children’s room was added and dedicated to Eleanor Plummer. 

In 1984 the name was changed to Raymond Woman's Library Club. In 1995 this was further changed to reflect the interest and assistance from the men of the community, and became the Raymond Library Club.

In 1996, the library voted again to change the organization's name, this time to the Raymond Village Library Club and hired their first library director.  Also in 2001, due to the remarkable success of the children's programs, we hired a second staff member, the youth services coordinator, said Holt.

In October 2003, more changes came to the library, changing its structure to an incorporated non-profit organization. The library is now overseen by a board of trustees, plus one selectperson from the Town of Raymond who serves as an ex-officio member. The board sets policy for the library and is responsible for maintaining funding for operations.

The library is open to everyone and Holt sees all types of people. “People looking for jobs, researching a paper about ice harvesting on Sebago Lake in the 1920s, people who come every year and new people who come into town,” she said. “Everybody and anybody. Every person who comes in here is a special person.” 
Librarians are well trained professionals who know how to help the people who walk in the door, from a dad and daughter looking for monster books to children who are looking for chapter books. “I try to find what they want or something you know about that will enhance what they’re doing,” said Holt, who has a Master’s degree of library sciences from Clarion University and a BS in secondary education. 

Holt’s favorite genre is biographies, but she is also a fan of magazines, of which the library subscribes to 20 different ones. She also reads newspapers. “It helps me talk to people about many things and give me a broad range of what’s going on in many areas.” She calls this “incidental knowledge” where she can connect with patrons and be on level ground. It’s one way she provides great, caring customer service.  
Volunteers are the lifeblood of RVL. Although they cannot do the work of the paid staff, they help with shelving books and helping Holt in other library duties. “We have some excellent volunteers. Our publicity person has been helping for close to 20 years,” Holt said. 

The library was automated a year ago thanks to a grant. Most of Maine’s small libraries, almost one-third, are not automated. 

RVL has to earn through grants and fundraisers $50,000 to keep the doors open and the lights on each year. They have received money from businesses and groups like Gorham Savings Bank, Norway Savings Bank, Loon Echo Land Trust, PTO and Maine Romance Writers. 

Finding the money is an everyday struggle for Holt and on top of that she works to keep the library relevant to what her patrons want. She is planning a crochet and knitting needle library for people to check out the items they need for a project. She would also like to see a cake pan library. 

This past week, Legos arrived at RVL for a Lego club that has been started. With the addition of the new programs and the never ending demand for new books, publications and technology, RVL has run out of space. 

“We need a larger space, computer classes, teen activities and more activities for people to gather,” said Holt. “Where else in the country can go for no reason, stay the whole day and you don’t have to spend a penny.” The wi-fi is free and the volunteers are friendly.

“It’s a super library and a super community. They need to do what they can to hold onto this library,” said Holt. 

Local businesses and residents are asked to help with the annual appeal that is currently going to meet the budgetary needs of the library. RVL does receive small grants and local businesses have been generous, said Holt. She added that the library does get some support from the town. One of the fundraisers RVL does is a Raymond Garden Tour 2015, where residents open their gardens for viewing to the public. 

“If they have (a library) they need to hold on to it. It’s the first and last place people go for information,” said Holt. 

Libraries around the area work together to keep current. They use the resources of the Maine State Library, which is looking out for them, Holt said. 

RVL just joined the interlibrary loan van service, which usually costs $800, but Holt was able to get the service through the Maine State Library. This increased the collection of RVL exponentially.
“I don’t want people to leave feeling satisfied. I want them to leave feeling delighted,” she said.

The "under construction" picture on the right is from 1996. This addition nearly doubled the library's space and was funded primarily by a capital campaign. 

Raymond Village Library History
Original library building 
Library addition under construction in 

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