DEXTER, Maine — For years, the school libraries in SAD 46 have operated out of available space, including at one time a cramped space under a stage.

In addition, the supervision of these libraries, which have outdated and incomplete collections, falls to secretaries in the small outlying schools or to an educational technician at the middle school.

Now, thanks to a $335,021 federal Improving Literacy through School Libraries grant, the libraries will advance into the 21st Century.

“It’s exciting, it’s really a shot in the arm and it’s money that we desperately need to upgrade our library services,” SAD 46 Superintendent Kevin Jordan said Friday. Jordan and David Fournier, the district’s technology coordinator, co-wrote the one-year grant that must be used by Aug. 31, 2009. There were about 500 applications submitted for the funds and only 80 were funded, he said.

The funds will be used to support kindergarten-through-grade-eight libraries and will focus on kindergarten-through-grade-three literacy, according to Jordan.

“Essentially, what we’re trying to do is: number 1, bring our libraries up to current standards, up to current needs, as we blend all of these small libraries into our new school library,” Jordan said. The district is constructing a new elementary/middle school on the Fern Road and when that school is completed which is anticipated by fall 2010, the Garland, Exeter and Dexter Primary Schools and the Dexter Middle School will be closed.

In addition to the library upgrade, Jordan said part of the grant will be used to improve literacy among kindergarten-through-third-grade pupils.

The grant also will allow the district to hire a library media specialist who will oversee the district’s libraries and to purchase books, computers, digital books, online databases, interactive instructional and leisure time materials.