Two Aroostook libraries secure national grants to increase public access

6 months ago

CARIBOU and FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — Two libraries in central Aroostook are launching projects to help senior citizens and people with disabilities access more services.

Both the Caribou and Fort Fairfield public libraries have received a Libraries Transforming Communities grant from the American Library Association. The program aims to help rural libraries wishing to increase material and service access for people who cannot regularly come to the library.

Caribou received a $20,000 grant while Fort Fairfield secured $10,000. They are two of seven libraries in Maine to receive funding from Libraries Transforming Communities, including those in Millinocket, Farmington, Casco, North Berwick and Thomaston.

Caribou Public Library plans to create a bookmobile that will travel throughout the city, including its most rural areas, said Library Director Peter Baldwin.

The bookmobile will provide books, library materials and WiFi hotspots to people in nursing homes, long-term care centers, hospitals and residential homes. It’s been at least 40 years since Caribou’s library has had a bookmobile, Baldwin noted.

Library staff already deliver books to several homebound residents. But since sharing news of the grant, they have been hearing more stories of older residents who struggle getting to the library because of mobility issues, lack of transportation or being homebound, especially in winter.

“People are excited for this to happen,” Baldwin said, about the bookmobile. “[Recently], we heard about a woman who loves to read but uses a walker and can’t get here. Her daughter brings her books.”

Caribou Public Library also has received $9,000 from the Maine Community Foundation and $1,000 from the local Willey Foundation to purchase the bookmobile. Baldwin hopes to have the bookmobile in Caribou within the next year.

In Fort Fairfield, librarians Lynn Cote and Barb Wells-Alexander are creating a “cozy corner” downstairs in the library’s newly renovated community room. They will also replace the aging elevator and wheelchair-accessible side door.

Since being renovated, the community room has new seating and a gallery featuring local artists. Cote and Wells-Alexander want the cozy corner to have life chairs, comfortable furniture and bright lighting for seniors and others who want to read or socialize.

The idea came from conversations with local senior citizens, Cote said. Possible activities could include knitting and quilting circles, music, discussion groups and technology lessons.

“We want this to be a comfortable, safe place for people to socialize and feel part of the community,” Cote said.

Both libraries are planning public forums to get community feedback and ideas for their projects.