ST. AGATHA – Hunger for knowledge and information is driving a group of people along the shores of Long Lake to develop the first-ever public library in St. Agatha.
The only library in town is the student library at Wisdom High School. Last winter, a group of residents started meeting to discuss the possibility of opening a public library.
Their plans are now more solid, and a campaign has begun to raise $250,000 to open the facility and to keep it operating in the future.
They have acquired federal nonprofit status, making donations tax deductible, and identified a possible location for the library.
An empty area at Montfort Heights, a senior citizen housing complex and a former boarding school facility, would seemingly fill their needs. The 1,100-square-foot room, according to an organizer, would provide the space they need for books and computer equipment.
Jackie Ayotte is president of the nine-person volunteer library committee.
As of Monday, the group had raised $11,995 from 21 donations. Twelve of the donations were from out of town, with six coming from out of state. Most of the donors are former residents of the lakeside community. The group’s Web site has received 120 visitors in the last month.
“We started talking amongst ourselves after the convent was sold last year,” Paradis said. “We thought the building may have made a library, but then we had to turn out discussions.
“We kept pursuing the idea, with encouragement from people,” she said. “We spoke with a librarian, a former resident, and he saw the possibilities as well.”
Cost estimates to make the Montfort Heights room workable come to $50,000. Then there would be book and material costs, monthly rental fees and utilities, as well as the cost of creating a fund for the future of the facility.
Paradis said there is a lot of interest locally in the idea. A survey done last spring during the municipal elections showed that more than 50 percent of those who voted would like a facility and would use it.
Paradis said many people were concerned that they don’t have access to a library within the community.
“The more we talked about it, the more it made sense,” Paradis said in a telephone conversation from Connecticut on Thursday, where she is on vacation. “If we don’t do anything, nothing is gained. If it works, we’ve gained everything.”
She said they already have book donations from the Acadian Heritage Council and Cole’s Museum in Bangor.
The group wants to create a section for children in the library, have computers and Internet access and an area for historical research that would make available resources of the St. Agatha Historical Society year-round. They also hope to have reading programs, guest lecturers and other activities.
Years ago, like many small towns in Maine, the area was served by a bookmobile. That has stopped, and library access is unavailable, Paradis said.
A facility in St. Agatha would be available to people around Long Lake, unorganized territories and Sinclair. Many tourists also come to St. Agatha, and some have asked for library facilities, Paradis said.
There is no timetable for the project. Paradis said construction would start after the fund reaches the $50,000 mark.
Members of the volunteer group are Paradis, Richard Smith, Florine Michaud, Terry Ouellette, Philip Morin, Denyse Michaud, Jeanne Chamberland, Joyce Crosby and Maynard Martin.
The next meeting of the committee is set for Oct. 16.
For more information on the project, Paradis can be reached at 543-9395. The group’s Web site is a link to the town’s Web site at www.stagatha.com, and its mailing address is the Long Lake Public Library, P.O. Box 33, St. Agatha 04772.