Writer Stephen King is known for many things: suspenseful storytelling, horror tales, and literary rock band music. But another long-time role is now capturing worldwide attention: library philanthropist.
The Bangor Public Library announced last week that Stephen and his wife and fellow author Tabitha King will donate $3 million toward the library’s $9 million renovation, redesign, and capital campaign, as long as the library can find other funds to reach the rest of its goal.
The building, which dates back to 1912, is in need of repairs and modernization, said Library Director Barbara McDade. The original copper roof has been leaking for about a year—endangering the 525,000 volume collection—and the library has been told by a roofing consultant that the metal must be replaced because it cannot be repaired.
“We have tarps all over the place,” McDade told LJ. “This winter we had a thaw and water splashed into the buckets under the tarp and ruined a shelf of books—it got wet, but we did catch it in time.”
The Bangor library’s new copper roof is estimated to cost $3 million and it would last 85 to 100 years, McDade said. (For more on the renovations needed, see INFOdocket.com.)
Not Just Plugging the Leaks
In addition to the roof, McDade and Library Campaign Manager Kate Villa said the building’s interior needs to be redesigned to better serve the local community. Renovation ideas include a new business center, more meeting rooms, and updated technology. The proposed redesign would cost about $3 million, Villa said, and the remaining $3 million would go to the endowment and contingency funds to continue operation and purchase new materials and technology. The endowment covers about 39 percent of the operating budget and the city covers the rest, Villa said.
Bangor city officials have discussed putting a $3 million library bond on the ballot in June, McDade said. A first reading for the roof repair bond proposal was held on Tuesday, according to the municipal meeting agenda.
Library officials hope to raise the rest of the funds through donations. The library is also seeking public comments for redesign ideas via an online survey and focus group meetings.
The library plans to take the ideas and other information to an architect and create a draft redesign proposal. The hope is to present the plans at a public meeting in May and solicit “more feedback to make sure we get it right and the community supports the vision,” Villa said.
A History of Help
This isn’t the first time the Kings have offered to help their hometown library. They contributed $2.5 million in the late 1990s to the library’s $8.5 million building addition and renovation project.
The Kings donated funds to replace the worn-out marble front steps, McDade said, and Tabitha King volunteered for many years as a library board member and continues to serve on the building committee.
“They have already been wonderfully supportive, we are so grateful to them,” McDade said. “Ever since they could afford to help, they have helped us.”
McDade said the Kings used to be frequent visitors to the library when they still lived in Maine full-time. (today the family spends winters in Florida, according to Stephen King’s website, although they spend the remainder of the year in Bangor and Center Lovell.)
The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation primarily donates to Maine libraries and has provided support to nearly every library in the state, Foundation administrator Stephanie Leonard told LJ. (Other causes it supports include health, education, and public safety.) The Maine State Library website reported that eight libraries received $143,300 in grants from the Foundation for renovations, book shelves, a new conference table, and a reading program last year.
The Community Contributes
Other community members and local businesses have also been helping out with the library fundraising effort.
Ruby Tuesday will donate 20 percent of its net sales on April 6, 7 and 8 from diners who identify themselves as library patrons, Villa said, and Weathervane Seafood Restaurant offered to hold a similar event. Jan Campbell’s Cakes by Jan is selling “cupcakes for copper.” Campbell, who sells $1 cupcakes every Thursday, said she would donate the proceeds for 1,000 treats to the library.
And the Stephen and Tabitha King-owned Zone Radio stations—which include WKIT-100.3, WZLO-103.1, and WZON The Pulse AM 620—organized a “Copper for Change” drive, in which empty water jugs—some as far away as Bar Harbor and Belfast—will be used to collect loose change for the library roof. Donations are also being solicited on the radio website and via PayPal.
Zone General Manager Bobby Russell said the idea for the drive “blossomed” on-air while he was talking about the Bangor library roof during his morning rock show last week.
Russell, who grew up using the Bangor Public Library, said many Maine residents outside of Bangor use that library, and he called it “a worthy cause.”
“I hope everybody helps out,” Russell said. “The last roof lasted 100 years. A new copper roof on there would last a lot longer.”
In addition to using the Bangor library himself, Russell said his grandchildren use the library and his mother-in-law, whose eyesight is failing, uses it for audio books. “It’s a big part of our lives, and a lot of people I know,” Russell said.
The radio station will match the public donations up to $50,000. Stephen King approved the donation match as long as the money comes from the radio stations’ operating budget, Russell said.
The radio station jug has already been emptied out once in less than a week, collecting close to $1,000. “We’re going to hit the $50,000 mark, no problem,” Russell said. “And then we’ll match it.”