Back in 2014, I was passing through Rumford for some now unremembered reason. I wrote about it on my personal blog. Oddly, The Robber Barons of Rumford is popular with spammers, but because I personally moderate each and every comment and sweep away the unsightly spammish ones, my familiar readers never see them.
When I wrote that blog post, I did some research on Andrew Carnegie and his libraries. A total of 1,689 were built in the United States and of these, 18 were built in Maine. A mere 1 percent. Both the Lewiston and Auburn public libraries were built with Carnegie grants. While both of these structures have expanded, they remain architecturally significant in our community.
There is no Carnegie Library in Calais.
The Calais Free Library does, however, have three of the same characteristics of a Carnegie library. It’s architecturally significant, built with a generous philanthropic gift, and intended as an intellectual repository for all citizens.
I have loved libraries from my first visit to the one in my hometown, the Lisbon Community Library, and I wear my heart on my sleeve when I say libraries illuminate the darkness, both literally and figuratively. Maybe that’s why Andrew Carnegie’s personal motto of “let there be light” was sometimes carved into the stonework or part of decorative windows in libraries he funded.
Where am I going with all this?
In 2016, I’d like to visit every Carnegie library in the state of Maine. I’ll interview the librarian, find the best local places for coffee and conversation, and uncover some magic in the mundane of places like Caribou, Milo, and Guilford. And I’ll add the Calais Free Library into the mix just because I’ve never been that far “Down East.”
December may very well be the darkest month of the year, but the calendar says we’ve turned the corner towards brighter days and it seems fitting to plan some similarly “illuminating” travel for the new year. Stay tuned for my exploration of “The Carnegie Libraries of Maine” and whatever other interesting people, places, and things light up the road less traveled.