CHERRYFIELD, Maine — When Cara Sawyer answered a Facebook post on Jan. 6, she ended up getting an American Girl doll and hundreds of books and other materials for the Cherryfield Free Public Library.
The Facebook post she answered came from Brunswick children’s book writer Cynthia Lord, who each year offers an American Girl doll to a Maine library willing to lend the doll to young patrons. The first library to respond to her Facebook post gets it. This year, Sawyer was first.
Lord hand-delivered the doll, named Samantha, and several accessories on Jan. 13, said Sawyer, who is library co-director with Kathy Upton.
“We gave [Lord] the tour of the library like we always do when new people come in,” Sawyer recalled.
During the tour, Sawyer mentioned that the library, which opened at its current location in 2006, has no budget for new materials.
“We are not funded by the town,” she said.
The town generally votes to make a donation which, last year, was $12,000. The library also uses the interest from a small endowment each year, but that doesn’t come close to meeting the $33,000 to $37,000 it costs each year just to keep the library doors open, she added.
The majority of the library’s expenses must be met through fundraisers, such as dinners and pie or coffee sales.
That “bare-bones budget” doesn’t include any money for new materials, Sawyer said.
The library instead relies on interlibrary loans and patron donations for new titles.
Lord said that as she was driving home to Brunswick after delivering the doll, she was thinking she must have some books the library could use.
“They obviously love the people in their community. I was really impressed with them,” Lord said.
When she got home, she put up another Facebook post asking those attending a teaching conference that weekend to go through their own bookshelves and consider donating any newer titles they were done reading. She would collect them at the conference.
Conference attendees took her request to heart.
“I was overwhelmed,” Lord said. “Just bags and bags and boxes and boxes [of books] came.”
Cherryfield sixth-grade teacher Emily VanOrmer, who attended the conference, took a carload of books back to Cherryfield. Another writer, Gary Urey, delivered a second carload of books.
“[Lord] was hoping to get maybe 20 to 30 books, and it went insane,” Sawyer said. “People just started coming up to her with tons of stuff for the library.”
A woman in Philadelphia who is closing her bookstore saw the Facebook post and has set aside about 200 books for the Cherryfield library. She will be delivering them, though a date has not been set, Sawyer said.
Others have mailed books.
“So it’s not only coming from Maine,” Lord said. “It’s coming from all over the country.”
She estimated they had received about 500 books by Friday, not counting the 200 coming from the bookstore that’s closing. Donations ranged from board books for babies to adult titles and DVDs.
In addition to being the Cherryfield library co-director, Sawyer works on Thursdays as the librarian for Cherryfield Elementary School, which will get any duplicate titles. Materials not needed by either library will be donated to other libraries with no budget for new titles, Sawyer said.
Sixth-grade students at the school Thursday helped VanOrmer sort about 200 of the donated volumes into categories according to audience age. The students were curious about the books they were sorting and flipping through some of the pages.
“I love that I’m seeing peeking,” VanOrmer told the students as she watched some looking through the new books. “I’m pretty excited about these books.”
She told the children that the library staff really appreciated their help with sorting the books.
“It saves us time,” she said.
“This has been an amazing adventure,” Sawyer said.
“That’s how Cherryfield rocks,” VanOrmer said.
Lord said it’s another example of Mainers helping Mainers.
“It makes you feel wonderful,” Lord said. “I’m not totally surprised, but I’m really grateful.”
For information on donating books or money, contact Sawyer at the library at 546-4228 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.