Springvale Public Library is Over
100 Years Old
The history of Springvale Public Library is a story of neighbors. “The Springvale Literary Club started in May 1906 because Miss Susan E. Frost and Miss Lillian Roberts thought people in the village would like to exchange books. Miss Frost canvassed the village for members at one dollar a year.”* The club bought some books, deposited them in the stationery shop of Frank H. Dexter, hired him (and later Isadora Dexter, his wife) as librarian at fifteen dollars a year and began loaning books. Fifty volumes were loaned on the first day. The rules were strict; until 1935, a library card entitled a person to take only one book.
In 1921 Mrs. Angelette H. Gile began her 32-year tenure as librarian. During her term, the library moved from its bookshelf in the Dexter’s stationery shop to the second floor of what is now the Key Bank building, and then to rented quarters in the Bradford Block on Main Street. When the sudden death of Mrs.Gile closed the building, Dorothy Q Garvin stepped off the Board of Trustees to serve as librarian.
In 1939, Springvale Public Library converted the Charles H. Frost home (now 443 Main Street) into a library. Services grew from the first floor to the whole building, including an adult reading room and children’s library. The library raised funds for each endeavor. Children collected a Mile of Pennies. A Tom Thumb Wedding was performed. Harmon G. Allen generously paid off the mortgage on the building. The Springvale Baptist Church shared its building for suppers as well as for library meetings; and the church was the location of the 1961 Round Table of Maine State Librarians, hosted by Springvale Public Library.
Throughout its history the library worked with local schools (Hamlin School, Lincoln School, Notre Dame School, and Springvale Elementary School) until none remained within walking distance. A bequest in memory of ‘Angie’ Gile provides children’s books. Joanne Vermette became the library’s first Children’s Librarian and served for 27 years. She was followed by Debbie Waterhouse, Karen Eger, and Sheila Dube, our present Children’s Librarian.
Local history has always been a focus of the library; and in 1982 a special genealogy bookcase, dedicated to William Ferguson, former Trustee, was installed in the upstairs reading room. It developed into a collection that draws people from as far away as England.
In 1989 the Friends of the Library formed. Each July they hold a book sale to benefit the library. This dedicated group of people support programming, such as the Summer Reading Program for children, and other needs of the library. In 1990 they purchased the first computer for the library for patron use. Automation began in 1997; and the library catalog went online in 1998. Not bad for a library which did not have a telephone until the 1960s!
“We should not forget our good caretakers,” wrote Dorothy Q Garvin. Over the years the work of Holland Rawnsley, H. H. Rowe, Tom Holdsworth, Sid Emery, Steve Sweeney, and Terry Brown have kept the library building attractive and sound.
Springvale Public Library continues to receive community support from its neighbors. The Town of Sanford has supplemented the operating budget of the library since 1908. Gifts include a beautiful china doll and tea set, which belonged to Miss Angie Shackley of Mill Street; two maple trees from L. Orlo Williams; an 1872 York County Atlas from Mrs. Roscoe C. Butler; annual donations from organizations such as the Springvale Women’s Club, the Searchlight Club, Three Rivers Land Trust, Kennebunk Savings Bank, Sanford/Springvale Rotary; and countless individuals. Many of our neighbors give in memory of loved ones or include the library in their wills.
By the 1980’s every corner of the building was full of books and library materials. Springvale Public Library was able, through a generous bequest of Trustee L. Orlo Williams to expand its building and property. In the process, the library continued the neighborliness of early years. It prepared land as a site for the new District Court, donated land to the town for parking, and sold the Nasson Gym to the Nasson Community Center Committee for $1.00, to enable the development of that property. The Ground Breaking Ceremony for our new building was the highlight of 2000. Our original Frost house was retained, placed on a new modern foundation, and expanded to include wings for the Children’s Room on the south and additional stacks on the north. The new basement includes a Meeting Room and Gallery. Librarian Marlene Parent and her staff operated the library in Anderson Learning Center. The present Springvale Public Library re-opened in its beautiful new home on August 20, 2001. Lesley Unger-Mochrie, Library Director, continues the legacy of fondly remembered past librarians: the Dexters, Angie Gile, Dorothy Garvin, Phyllis Shaw, Edwina Hewey, Marlene Parent, Karen Eger, and Richard Schrader.
Compiled from The Bicentennial History of Sanford, Capt. Albert L. Prosser, ed. and histories of former librarians
~Susan Riding -- 2006
“People who come to our library tell us it is a friendly place; that it has charm. We want to keep it so.” ~Dorothy Q Garvin