AUBURN — Financially squeezed by the sour economy and a poorly selling book, the Androscoggin Historical Society has eliminated its only staff position.

Michael Lord, who has run day-to-day operations for almost 13 years, will finished his job next week.

“In 20-20 hindsight, I guess I should have seen it coming,” Lord said. “But I thought I was pretty secure.”

The decision to lay off Lord was tough, society President David Young said Friday.

“He was a faithful employee,” Young said. But the expense became too much with the growing financial pressure, he said.

The society operates with income from an endowment. This money paid Lord’s salary and other operational expenses, including the utilities and $300 monthly rent for its offices, located on the third floor of the Androscoggin County Courthouse.

The society also lost money when it produced a two-volume history of the county in 2004.

Volume 1 was titled “Alnobak: A Story of Indigenous People in
Androscoggin County.” Volume 2 was titled “Androscoggin County, Maine
150th: A Pictorial Sesquicentennial History.”

Together, the works were “an academic success,” said Lord, who co-edited the books with W. Dennis Stires. However, they were hardbound and costly.

“If they had been softbound, we would have broken even,” Lord said.

Lord, 43, plans to continue to work with the society as a member of its board. But he also intends to make a break with operations there and move onto other projects after a rest.

“I’m going to take the month of July off,” he said. “I haven’t had a vacation in several years.”

With Lord’s departure, the society will have to work extra hard to make its collections available to researchers, Young said.  For now, he plans to spend Friday afternoons there. He also plans to hire a secretary to work eight hours per week.

Young also plans to seek out ways to increase the society’s visibility.

“We’re sort of the best kept secret in Androscoggin County,” Young said. He plans to coordinate with other historical societies in the area to build his group’s Web site.

Lord plans to change careers, using his master’s degree in economics to create a company that translates economics texts into foreign languages.

“All I need now is funding,” he said.

He believes the job change was needed, but he would have been reluctant to make the move on his own.

“I just needed a little push,” he said. “I wish the society well.”


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