January 9, 2004
Construction on a new, functional and visually stunning entrance to the Blake Library at the University of Maine at Fort Kent is nearing completion, and university and community library patrons alike will have Maine's most prolific writer to thank for the marked improvement.
The entryway, which will greet users of the campus library before month's end was made possible through a $40,000 gift from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation received by the university late last spring.
In addition to being a lobby for the library, the entrance will also serve the new Acadian Archives building, which is currently under construction and will be connected to the Blake Library when completed later this year.
"First impressions really are important. This wonderful gift from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation will create an entrance to these facilities that is truly welcoming and more in keeping with the intellectual treasures inside," said UMFK President Richard Cost.
The new entrance was part of the original plan for the Archives building, and provided for an elegant entryway to the library that would be located on the east side of the building facing into the campus quad, in a wing of the library building added in 1988. The old main entrance remained where it did when the building was first constructed as a gymnasium in 1928, on the north side, facing the parking lot.
In addition to a new location the main entrance will be handicapped accessible. The door will have an airlock to keep out the cold.
Incorporated into the new plan has been the moving of the library circulation and reference desks to a location near the entrance. Very close to that area will be the Archives entrance when that facility is complete.
Blake Library staff will also relocate their facility's Acadian collection very near the entrance so if the Archives is closed, patrons will have resources to start their research.
"Staff at the library have dreamed for years of having the entrance face the campus quad instead of the parking lot. The shared space will provide better accessibility for library patrons as well as archives patrons," said Sharon Johnson, UMFK's dean of information services.
Johnson and her staff were concerned that construction of a new entrance might be altered or altogether jeopardized last year when bids for Archives building construction came in higher than architects had estimated.
"The Kings have a reputation of being truly supportive of libraries," said Johnson.
Work on re-orienting the library for the new entrance and new Archives facility began early last year. The overall project has greatly impacted the library, creating the need to completely rearrange the facility.
Prior to actually moving books and shelves, staff had spent months planning for change and making sure the collection would fit.
The Blake Library plays a variety of important roles in helping to foster scholarship, literacy, and the arts in northern Maine. Its curriculum center is used extensively by local K-12 teachers, and the building contains the only art gallery exhibit space open year-round in the St. John Valley. In addition, the facility is heavily used by numerous Valley residents, including families who utilize the library's extensive collection of French children's literature.
The Archives has been housed within the library since it was founded in 1990, to document, preserve, celebrate, and disseminate information about the history and cultural heritage of Maine's St. John Valley.
The Archives collects manuscripts and audio/visual materials relevant to the history, folklore, and folk-life of the region. It also has a library of reference books and other publications, including U.S. and Canadian census records for the Valley and microfilm editions of local newspapers.