Libraries depend on many resources to function: publishers, computer networks, library systems―but most of all―people. In December of 1974 a group of women from the Reformed Church decided to hold a book exchange. It continued. They set up shop in the Reformed Church. The vision grew. According to Gardiner Library: Its Beginning, Its Growing Energy, Its Struggle for Space, by historian Carleton Mabee, when the new library wanted to move to Station Square, the people of Gardiner mailed in hundreds of post cards urging the town to allow the library use of the old firehouse.
The old firehouse hadn’t been used for years and the only electricity went to one bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. There was no heat, no water and no rest room, but the people of Gardiner volunteered their time, energy, and money to make the building habitable. A community grant provided a heating system.
The library existed as an all-volunteer endeavor until 1980 when Peg Lotvin, who had been instrumental in its development, was hired as the library manager. Gardiner continued to grow. In 1985 an addition was built, partially funded by the Friends of the Library. Fund-raising efforts over the years—plant and bake sales, raffles, a fashion show, luncheons in private homes, the Southern barbeque, auctions and the well-known “Buy a Brick” program―were all planned and staffed by volunteers.
By the 1990s the building was well past meeting the needs of the community and the Library Board’s exploration of options continued into the new century. Finally, the current property was obtained from the town and the real planning began. The community attended open meetings with the architect, gave their ideas on what was needed and was financially generous; by September of 2008 fifty local businesses and over 600 different families and individuals had made donations totaling over $440,000.
People also gave generously of their time and energy. When the old Gardiner Library closed its doors people came and packed boxes, cleaned shelves, tossed garbage and moved furniture. On October 15, 2008, a human chain of more than 200 people passed the adult fiction collection from the old library to the new. More volunteers set up shelving and tables, unpacked boxes, cleaned books, brought food and helped in every way possible. They enabled Gardiner to move an entire library for free, and to have it up and running in ten days!
Over 350 people (some estimates are close to 500) attended the opening celebration for the beautiful new building. The giving didn’t stop. When the library received a donation of wooden shelving, volunteers came in and painted them. When the shelves were installed, volunteers helped move books.
Currently, there are volunteers who help daily and weekly. They are what allow the Gardiner Library to be “the full service library” it is. The Gardiner Library building is beautiful, but its true beauty is the people of Gardiner who created it, supported it all these years and continue to support it today.