In 1796, a group of townspeople in Blue Hill expressed a desire “to become acquainted with the customs and manners of the world and every other useful knowledge.” They opened the town’s first library in a corner of the local grocery store. The grocer doubled as librarian. Overdue fines were six cents a week, with additional fines of two cents per page for spilled drops of oil or tallow. Jonathan Fisher, the first settled minister in Blue Hill, designed a book plate for the library that is still in use today.
Interest in the library waned in the 19th century and it closed for almost 20 years. In 1868 the Ladies’ Social Library of Blue Hill was organized. This enterprising bunch of ladies met “to exchange books and eat ice cream” on Thursdays from 1 to 3 pm.
The library prospered and, by 1895, occupied two ground floor rooms in the brand new Town Hall. There were 1,662 books in 1903 when the library was open two days a week. A children’s section was added “to win the children to a love of the library.”
By the early 1930s, the Town Hall location was too small. Even though these were the years of the Depression, plans began for a new library. Adelaide Pearson, who had moved to Blue Hill in 1928, took on the formidable task. She was described as “a small woman who got things done” and had a vision for a library that was an integral part of the community, serving more than as a place to store and retrieve books.
To fulfill that dream, she organized a fundraising campaign to buy a vacant lot on the corner of Main Street and Parker Point Road. Local pledges came in ranging from 20 dollars to 25 cents to “one dollar or a day’s work.” With the help of librarian Anne Hinckley, Adelaide Pearson petitioned the federal government for funds from the Public Works Administration.
During 1938 and 1939, the whole project almost fell through until Anne Hinckley traveled to New York and Washington to secure the PWA grant in person. At last, in March of 1940, the handsome new brick building designed by Bunker and Savage Architects of Augusta opened its doors.
The new library building housed 35,092 volumes together with Miss Pearson’s diverse collection of artifacts from her world travels. Dorris Parker was brought in to be the first full-time librarian. Tall and imposing, she was Head Librarian for 38 years from 1944 to 1982. Blue Hill readers, she said, were clearly “well-read and anxious to read.” Fern McTighe, a much-loved librarian, worked at the library from 1977 to 2004.
By 2000, the library was once more outgrowing its building. Ground was broken for a $2 million dollar expansion and renovation. Three wings were added to the original 1939-1940 building, including a large children’s room and meeting room. When the building was finished in 2001, the library had doubled its usable size.
The collection now consists of 40,000 books in print, books in audio, tapes, and DVDs. There are 1300 museum pieces and 500 items in the archives.
With the new building came renewed interest in, and demand for library services. The library has become a gathering place for the whole peninsula. In 2011, for example, there were 361 community meetings and cultural programs, and 401 library-sponsored programs. Today. the nine public computers are in constant use, as is the wireless network. A comfortable area for young adults has been created on the second floor. There are story hours, chess clubs, movies, play readings, author presentations, book sales, lectures, knitting, and music recitals. Fulfilling Adelaide Pearson’s dream of being integral to the community has been our goal and our passion. The library has truly become the community’s living room!