June 6, 2003
Future patrons of the University of Maine at Fort Kent Blake Library and soon-to-be-constructed Acadian Archives building will have Maine's most prolific writer to thank for a most functional and visually stunning shared entrance to the facilities.
The University has just been awarded $40,000 from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation to create a new entrance to the campus library, one that will also serve as the main entryway for the new Acadian Archives, which is currently under construction and will be connected to the Blake Library.
"First impressions really are important. This wonderful gift from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation will enable us to construct 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 current main entrance remains 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 will be the moving of the Library circulation and reference desks to a location in the entrance. Very close to that area will be the Archives entrance.
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 earlier this 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. We had heard of the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation and thought it might be an avenue to ensure that the library would get its door," said Johnson.
Work on re-orienting the library for the new entrance and new Archives facility began late last year between the fall and spring semesters. The overall project has greatly impacted the library, creating the need to completely rearrange the facility.
Prior to actually moving books and shelves, staff have spent months planning for change and making sure the collection would fit.
"The whole staff feels very affirmed by this grant award. It's a type of verification that libraries really do count," said Johnson. "This donation will help this campus to realize its dream of a building for the Acadian Archives. This building will also free up some very much needed space for the library and its collection. Both entities will be able to better expand. The Archives for sure will be able to finally collect more and accept donations which they couldn't before."
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.
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.