Friends rally for town’s library

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MECHANIC FALLS – John Hawley walked softly among the strewn books, tapes and papers where vandals had crashed the kiosks. All this stuff – literature, movies and pulp paperbacks – might have been borrowed for free.

“Libraries have no enemies,” said Hawley, the town manager, as he tried to make sense of the destruction inside the Mechanic Falls Public Library.

Two days after somebody broke in – stealing an estimated $20 from the cash box, a computer and some DVDs – there is still little sense to be found.

“I don’t know,” Hawley said. “The stuff they took might be resold. But it doesn’t figure that they’d trash the place, too.”

He estimated the damage at “several thousand dollars.” A better figure will have to wait until the insurance company gets inside. Once adjusters have examined the place, library volunteers will be able to begin their clean-up and inventory exactly what was taken.

Fundraising to help the library could begin immediately.

Already, Nancy Petersons, the chairperson of the library’s Board of Trustees, has been offered help to begin collecting money at local shops.

At the Town Hall, Hawley has been offered a donation by one of Mechanic Falls’ heavy equipment suppliers, the Nortrax John Deere dealership in Westbrook.

And libraries in Lewiston and Auburn have opened up their memberships to anybody in town for the next three months.

“We’re in this together,” said Rosemary Waltos, Auburn’s librarian. She first heard about the break-in when she saw Thursday’s Sun Journal.

“My heart sank,” she said. “This is a major blow to a small town library.”

The break-in apparently happened sometime after closing on Tuesday, Hawley said.

People from nearby Bryant Energy saw three people near the downtown library after it closed, Hawley said.

The vandalism was discovered the next morning when a library volunteer arrived.

She tried calling the police from the library but the phone was stolen, Petersons said.

Police in the small town – an officer patrols the town 24 hours a day – examined the scene on Wednesday.

On Thursday, it looked untouched.

Behind the century-old brick building, footprints led to the frozen Little Androscoggin River where somebody had tossed a desk chair.

Petersons said she felt “violated” when she saw the damage but she’s been touched by the help. She called the offer from the Lewiston and Auburn library’s “a wonderful, unexpected gift.”

Meanwhile, she hopes to begin the process of re-opening.

An emergency meeting of the library board of trustees is scheduled for 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 31, at the library.

“I don’t know how long it will take to get the library back,” she said.

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