Auburn’s library a real public gem


Libraries are the ultimate equalizer. They store vast information and make it available to everyone, regardless of age or wealth, at no cost. They provide entertainment and they educate us. They make our democracy work.

Andrew Carnegie knew that, which is why he helped establish libraries across this nation.

Auburn’s Carnegie library was constructed in 1904. Additions were made in 1956 and again in 1978, and a third splendid addition to that structure has just been finished and will be open to the public on Monday.

We urge our readers, as strongly as we can, to visit this library and embrace the building and its collection.

The renovation and addition to the Auburn Public Library has been a massive undertaking, which included a move of book collections to a temporary site at the Auburn Mall. Barbara Trafton’s commitment to leading this effort was nothing short of remarkable, and she deserves high praise for her volunteer work. What she has done, with the help of more people than we could possibly mention here, is a genuine gift to the Twin Cities.

The $6.5 million project, funded half by taxpayers and half by private donations, has increased storage space for print and non-print materials, expanded the children’s department, established a young adult reading area with direct access to the reference department, expanded study and work spaces, and created a large meeting room that can seat as many as 150 people. The addition is a remarkable match to the original building, and complements surrounding structures.

Auburn library’s high circulation figures place it in the top 10 percent nationally, in similarly sized facilities, for use of services. This addition should only increase that usage with enhanced access to information in an expanded space.

Libraries, while chiefly used to check out books and movies, are enormous community resources. They nourish creativity, inform us, preserve our past, provide a haven of individuality and treat us all with equity. Libraries provide us access to information in print and online that we may otherwise have no other way to obtain.

This library renovation and construction project put a heavy emphasis on beauty, too.

A terra cotta mural – unveiled to invited donors Thursday evening – is designed to be seen, read and felt. The textured relief of the Great Falls created by South Portland artist Sharon Townshend, set just inside the Spring Street entrance, showcases the fish and birds that make the Androscoggin River their home. That theme of nature is carried throughout the library in various life-size sculptures of Maine birds. It’s a good match of resources and art for minds and souls.

Libraries are community treasures. In Auburn, the library is a real gem.