2 St. John Valley libraries receive remote work grants

9 months ago

FORT KENT, Maine – Fort Kent Public Library and Long Lake Public Library in St. Agatha received $100,000 and $9,000, respectively, to help accommodate remote workers. The grants were awarded through Maine’s Remote Work Through Libraries initiative. 

Fort Kent Public Library Director Andrew Birden said he and staff at the library went through an extensive planning process with the state and that it took several months to prepare the grant. Fort Kent was among 12 libraries in the state to receive $100,000, he said.

Birden said the funding will help the library create a remote, shared workspace.

“It will be open to the public,” he said. “People will be able to come in and they will find workstations, which include the desk, computer or terminal of some sort, printing services, faxing services, and referencing materials that they can use to work remotely.”

He said this will help plenty of people in the area, ranging from someone visiting on vacation who needs to take care of some work to someone who wants to open and operate their own web-based business. 

Fort Kent Public Library.

“We are also planning on instituting several training programs to show people how to operate businesses, how to work remotely, and how to do basic remote functions like handling email and doing Zoom calls,” Birden said.

All grant money awarded through this program is closely monitored by the state, and can only be used to fund a remote work space project over the course of three years. This includes funding training programs as well as any technology or furniture purchases related to the work space. 

It does not cover salaries, operating expenses, book purchases or any other aspect of the library. 

Long Lake Public Library Director Lauren Paradis said their remote work station will have plenty of community benefits.

“We’re located right next to a school, and we sometimes get students here,” she said. “So they’ll be able to use our new computers and the group area for group work or group projects. And it will also help remote workers who are new to the area.”

Long Lake Public Library will have four public computers as well as two spaces for people to bring in their own computers.

Paradis said older members of the community can also use the area if they need help with any computer-related tasks. 

“They can just come right in and we can help them with whatever they’re looking for,” Paradis said.

Both Paradis and Birden said the funding comes during a time in which the libraries are seeing positive momentum and growth. 

“We’re starting some new children’s programs and we’re going to be starting our senior hours soon, so we’re excited for that,” Paradis said. “Other than that, we’re just excited for all the new changes that are happening and we’re very grateful to have received the grant for this to be possible.”

Birden said the Fort Kent Public Library recently underwent extensive upstairs renovation that included changes to the layout of the circulation desk, as well as ADA-compliant public restrooms. He said the library has also seen a significant increase in patronage over the past year, going from eight to 10 visitors a day to 30 to 80 people on a daily basis. 

“We’re seeing a lot of progress,” Birden said. “And we’re seeing welcome, extended and enduring support from the community.”