KITTERY, Maine — Bookworms, be on the lookout: The soft reopening for the renovated and expanded Rice Public Library is scheduled for the week of Monday, May 23.
Closed to the public since March 2021, the town’s 134-year-old library has been in the midst of a $6.1 million renovation process, which will expand its size to 15,500 square feet.
The announcement was made by Town Manager Kendra Amaral in her report to Kittery Town Council members ahead of its meeting Monday, May 9. It was made public on Thursday.
Amaral wrote had it not been for shipping delays of shelving equipment, the library’s soft opening would have been next week.
“The building construction is substantially complete, the remaining shelving is being installed and books are being shelved this week,” she wrote.
Soft furniture has been installed, and the installation of information technology, such as network systems, audiovisual equipment, and security systems, are nearly complete.
The paving and striping of the parking lot is likely to be wrapped up sometime next week.
“Punch list items are nearly complete with minor touch-ups to scuffed walls and floors from move-in activities,” Amaral added.
A new addition to the building at 8 Wentworth St. has been constructed, which will house the expanded first-floor children’s space with a storytime area and the Maine/Local History Room that’s been relocated to the ground level.
The library’s ground floor will have a community multi-purpose room with seating for 100 people and an attached arts and craft room called a “makerspace.” The ground floor will house a nonfiction collection, a reference and biography collection and the staff break room.
A room on the building’s first floor, called “E-Commons,” will hold 10 computers available for public use in addition to the library’s audio book collection. Library director Lee Perkins’ office will be located on the first floor, which will also contain sections for mystery and science fiction books, large print and Western books, an adult fiction collection and a display for newly released titles.
The mezzanine level, which is being repainted, will be designated for the library’s young adult unit, complete with a game room, a study area, a children’s collections area and the children’s librarian’s office.
The library’s original woodwork and grand staircase are being preserved. An elevator is being incorporated within the library, with on-site parking doubled to 28 total spaces and electric vehicle charging stations reinstalled.
“We are all truly excited to be welcoming the public back to the Rice Public Library in the coming weeks,” Amaral wrote.
A children’s garden, to be named after late former Town Councilor, Planning Board member and youth swimming instructor Ann Grinnell, is tentatively slated to be built in the fall. The garden is fully funded by donors.
Per Amaral’s memo, “The subcommittee working on the Children’s Garden is working on scheduling a meeting with donors in May to unveil design options and gather feedback.”
A public feedback session on the children’s garden designs will be held in June.
The expansion and renovation process was funded by a $5 million town bond, Kittery capital improvement monies, grants and capital campaign donations. Portland-based Wright-Ryan Construction has overseen the entire project
In the 14 months since the closing of the library, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, the roughly 100,000 items in its collection were transferred to the neighboring Taylor Building. The Taylor Building, built as a courthouse in 1965, housed all the library’s items throughout the project period.
Last month, the Taylor Building ceased its library operations after being bought by the Kittery Art Association.
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Kittery ME: Rice Public Library’s soft reopening date is set