Regular patrons, Eliza, 9, left and sister, Grace, 12, exit the Andover Library which was once a Unitarian Church. Rose Lincoln

ANDOVER — Library Director Janet Farrington has worked the past 23 years at the Andover library, a place so comfortable you might curl up and take a nap as some patrons have done on the centrally located couch.

“When you walk in here, it’s like coming home,” said Farrington.

Part of that appeal, she said is the architecture. On a recent sunny afternoon, beautiful golden light cascades through original stained glass windows. The octagonal-shaped, former Unitarian church was built in 1899 on Church Street. The church gave it to the town in 1943 with the stipulation that it always be a library.

Early on, the town added a bathroom and converted the original wrought iron chandelier to electric. George and Sidney Abbott donated the white and brown ash from their wood lot on the Kimball Mile in North Andover. The ash envelops the walls and ceilings. During one renovation the wood was injected with resin to strengthen the structure. Eventually, six lines of LED lights were added on the ceiling, too.

At one point, said Farrington, they thought they might like to put metal on the oddly-shaped roof. They gave the builder the dimensions and their CAD (computer aided design) programmer said, “this roof can’t exist.” New technology was befuddled by old architecture.

Besides the architecture, the appeal of the library is that it is welcoming.  Because, said Farrington, “there is no ‘hush, hush’, and people are comfortable with that. It’s homey.”


Many of the library ‘regulars’ stop by for books weekly.

Eliza Owings, reads a book at the Andover Library. She and her sister walk there once a week. Rose Lincoln

Linda Percival, is one. The former elementary school teacher, is a trustee of the library. On a recent afternoon, she picks up two books by Maine authors, a genre she has been reading lately. Another, by John Gould, is on her list.

Percival comes at least once a week and will read anything but suspense. “these girls are fantastic. They are wonderful at picking out books,” she said of Farrington and Assistant Librarian Wendy Hutchins, of Andover.

Percival was a little girl when the library was a room in Town Hall. She said there was great excitement surrounding the move to the church.  She visited the library when her daughters were growing up and now brings her grandchildren over from Bethel.

On the first and third Tuesday of each month, a younger group of “regulars” arrive. Two grades of elementary school children walk from school to the library to borrow a book. Two weeks later two different grades come. Farrington said the children, “know they are being heard,” because she tries to fulfill all their book requests.

Detail of the doorknob at Andover Library which was once a Unitarian Church. Rose Lincoln

Each month, Farrington orders approximately 30 adult books and 15 children’s books: five easy readers, five juniors, and five young adults. “Making sure you stay tuned with your community, what their interests are. What their focus might be [is important].” said Farrington.


She notes several writers and series that are popular in Andover: James Patterson; The Pendergast series by co-authors, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child; and C.J. Box. Among children, “Pig the Pug” and the entire pig series are very popular as are the Boxcar children. An oversized thank you note to Farrington, from some young Pig the Pug fans is displayed behind the check-out desk on the old card catalogues.

While a chiming clock marks the hour, Farrington says, “We have DVD’s, we have VHS’s, audio books, newspapers, and eight computers.” A collection that spans time.

“She knows about her patrons and the town and she’s self-taught. It’s amazing,” Hutchins says of Farrington.

Farrington’s husband was born in Andover and when he was in the Coast Guard, he met Janet who lived on the west coast. After they were married, the couple traveled; she has visited all 50 states. (he has been to 49). There was one 14-month span when they lived in three of the four corners – Oregon, California and Florida, then came to Maine to visit family, eventually staying.

Hutchins, seemed destined to return to libraries. She vividly recalls her first story hour at the Bethel Library. “I remember the books and wanting them all,” she said. Fifty years ago, when her daughter Shelly was a baby, she worked at the Bethel Library. In the years since, she has pumped gas, picked eggs at Robert’s Poultry Farm, and taught as a substitute teacher and a tutor.  Her first college class was cataloguing books. “We always had books, My mother, father and grandfather were all readers.”

In the summers a completely different clientele shows up at the library. “We enjoy the hikers and encourage them to come in,” said Farrington. Appalachian Trail hikers sign the guest book with their trail names: Captain Blue, GOAT, Moss Rock, Brave and Mary Poppins. They write, “Magic place, love it.” and “I love it here and never want to leave, can I take the smell with me?”  Farrington’s daughter-in-law and her friends were two of the hundreds of AT hikers who have stopped by on their way south.


Desks are lined with computers at Andover Library. Rose Lincoln

“Absolutely loved the giant Adirondack chair,” wrote Walkabout. On the library lawn is a Paul Bunyan Chair placed there by the Rumford Chamber of Commerce, one of 10 in the River Valley. Hikers connect to home with wi-fi from the chair or at the nearby picnic table. Used books are a quarter and sometimes they buy a book, too. Often they have a shower and stay the night at nearby Pine Ellis Lodging.

“I have never had anyone in 21 years say they liked the movie,” said Farrington, of Myth of the Fingerprints. “It’s also the one I’ve had to replace the most.”

Conversation about the movie comes up because part of it was filmed in the library basement and at the nearby Merrill-Poor house. Skating scenes were done on Songo Pond, in Bethel. Hutchins’ chimes in,  “They used a cabin up by Moose Pond. [Actor] Noah Wiley was all the rage at the time because he was in ER … It wasn’t the most wonderful movie.”

In the basement, where the movie was filmed, is a children’s room. Books in low shelves, bean bag chairs, and a large square table complete the space, a casual counterpart to the upper level. A home schooling group of 20 is using the space for a creativity class for six weeks and town government groups regularly meet there, too. The library has a generator now, so it also serves as a warming center if residents lose power.

The building is not without drama. Farrington said, “I have a lot of people that say the library is haunted. When they were putting in the original floor in the basement a cat got trapped under there … cat remains were found. Probably it got trapped down there and was meowing and people heard something and the ghost stories started.”

The Abbotts donated the white and brown ash from their wood lot on the Kimball Mile for the ceiling of the Andover Library. Rose Lincoln

At the end of the day on a recent Tuesday, two much younger regulars come by. The Owings sisters, Eliza, 9, and Grace, 12, look through the graphic novels. Farrington suggests the graphic copy of Anne of Green Gables, but Grace has already read it. She suggests Otter next and Grace decides to give it a try. She’s delighted at being allowed to check out two books, since the school children get just one each.


Barb Sabin, a trustee for over 20 years, and a former kindergarten teacher stops in, too, “the library is the heart and soul of the town, for sure. It’s a wonderful meeting place. It’s a safe place, a happy place.”

“We aim to please, Barb,” says Farrington.

“And you do,” responds Sabin.

Andover Library hours:

Tuesday 1 to 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday 1 to 4:30 p.m.
Thursday 1 to 4:30 / 6 to 8 p.m.
Saturday 1 to 4:30 p.m.

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