Wednesday, May 20, 2015

329 Rice Public Library, Kittery, Maine

There is always something new under the sun and in this case, it is a library with two addresses. No, not a main library and a branch, but two separate buildings. The original library, a handsome brick structure from 1888, was built with money that Arabella Rice received from her uncle, hence the name "Rice Public Library." But what do you do when you outgrow the original? In Kittery, the solution was to expand into the old courthouse across the street. The collection is split between the two  buildings.

I started in the newer, smaller building, which houses fiction, media, and the children's area. The building is a bit of a maze, with every nook and cranny put to use. The main floor has areas for mysteries, westerns, new books, media, large print books, and general fiction. The collection is not huge, but the shelves are full to the point where some books are placed horizontally above the row of books on a shelf. There are three public computers and a small sitting area for browsers. One set of shelves, the mysteries, I believe, was given in memory of Kenneth H. Paisley.

The children's area is down a vertiginous set of stairs (or in a side door). A "kitchen" by a window is available for dramatic play. One area holds J books, media, and two computers. Another has picture books, easy readers, and books on parenting. There is a model castle on a shelf in the corner. I saw one "Ready to Learn" backpack with parenting books, picture books, and a "resource pack," ready to go. A small space has been creatively turned into a cozy seating area, almost like a window seat without a window. I could readily imagine two or even three kids curling up there with books. A table for reading or projects is next to three round "porthole" windows--see picture below.

And I have to give a shout out to the staff in this building, who seem to have a lively and friendly relationship among themselves and with patrons. This is a group that enjoys their work and each other.

Now, across the street to the older building, which proved to have even more nooks and crannies, spread across at least three levels. I found it easy to visualize how this library once was, with a circulation desk and the stacks behind it, accessible only to the librarian. Now the stacks are open; the space is half-round, with the stacks set like spokes with windows at the end. The windows, like others in the building, still have narrow wooden shutters on the inside. These stacks hold the non-fiction collection from 000 to 699. There are also six computers providing Internet access.

The lower level was down more steep stairs, though when I got down I discovered another door from the parking lot. This level houses the staff kitchen, rest rooms, non-fiction 700-942.9 plus biographies. [943 to 999 are upstairs], and periodicals. The Howells Room provides seating.

On the top level, I found a Young Adult room in one corner, with table and chairs, beanbag chairs, and a decent collection of books. Diagonally across the building from YA is a room with a fireplace and a classic portrait of George Washington, the same one as in all my public school classrooms through the years. There is also the "Maine Room" and on the wall in the stairway a World War II Kittery Honor Roll.

The main space upstairs has two corner stairways leading to balconies with more stacks. I learned from staff that about 30 years ago a dropped ceiling was removed from this space, revealing the elaborate original ceiling with stained glass skylights. This is altogether an amazing building, where metaphorical new wine lives fairly comfortably in an old skin. Would Kittery be well-served by a shiny new building like the one up the road in York? No doubt the answer is yes. Is the town now well served by what it has? It appears so to a visitor.

For more about this library, go to or visit it on Facebook at

5/19/2015  car, with Jean and Mary

Entrance to the "new" building, the former courthouse

Kittery is on the coast, so this nautically-themed corner of the children's area is very appropriate.

The Arabella Rice building, 1888

One corner of the upstairs, showing the mezzanine stacks.


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