Written by John R. Clark - DEXTER - Ask library director Liz Breault if she thinks libraries are an endangered species and she will probably laugh. After 19 years as director, she has weathered numerous changes and challenges at the elegant building overlooking the center of Dexter.
The building, built in 1894 by George Abbott and dedicated on July 4th the following year was one of the first in Dexter to have gas lights and later electricity. Situated where the Dr. Gilman Burleigh house once stood, the library was the beneficiary of Mr. Abbott’s success in the wood and woolen industries. Dexter selectmen used the front room of the library as their office until 1930, accounting for the safe that remains behind.
While the building retains its air of genteel elegance, the library operation has changed with the times. Liz, along with assistants Michelle Dyer-Fagan and Courtney Smith, oversees a diverse collection of some 26,000 items including books, videos, audiobooks, some 50 magazine subscriptions and the newest offering-Playaways. The latter, just purchased with funds from a Rudman grant which also benefitted the Shaw Library in Greenville, are self-contained audio devices in a case, complete with batteries and earphones. Each holds an unabridged recording of one audio book. Abbott and Shaw will swap their Playaway collections later this year to maximize patron access and enjoyment.
Liz and her staff have other plans in the works for the citizens of Dexter and surrounding towns. A recently added offering is the young adult book discussion group which meets monthly at the Brewster Inn on Wednesdays. Participants like the ambiance and feeling of being special while talking over a book chosen by group members. Liz hopes to start a similar group for adults and invites anyone with an interest to contact her at 924-7292.
The Abbott Library is in the process of becoming a full-fledged member of MaineCat, the statewide online catalog. Liz expects this will help increase Abbot Library’s use of the weekly Velocity van delivery service which transports items among more than 50 Maine libraries.
Two other ongoing projects make the library a stopping point for historians and genealogists; the preservation and microfilming of old Dexter newspapers and an online archive of obituaries going back to the time when newspapers were first printed in Dexter. The latter resource is linked to the library website at http://www.dextermaine.org/library.html.
Like many other libraries in Maine, Abbott offers walk-in wireless service as well as several computers for public use. Photocopying is also offered, but fax services are not. The library which serves the towns of Dexter, Cambridge, Exeter, Garland, Ripley, and St. Albans, is located at One Church Street. It is open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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