CHERRYFIELD — With just enough money to keep the lights on each week, the Cherryfield Free Public Library does not have any left over to buy books.
The library’s $0 book budget is a challenge for Library Director Cara Sawyer and employee Kathy Upton, who rely on donations from the community and the state’s inter-library loan program to provide new titles for the community.
“We do as much as we can with as little as we have,” she said.
But thanks to the power of social media, the library received more book donations in the past two weeks than it has in a decade.
For the past five years, Maine children’s book author Cynthia Lord has donated one American Girl doll to a library in the state for it to lend out to kids in the community.
The coveted American Girl dolls cost $115 plus more for accessories such as outfits and a journal to write down the doll’s adventures. It’s an expensive toy that many families cannot afford to buy.
Lord puts out a call for the doll on her Facebook page each year and the first librarian to reply is the recipient of the doll.
This year, Sawyer, a self-proclaimed iPad obsessive, was at the right place (Facebook) at the right time to reply to Lord’s post.
The Cherryfield Free Public Library was the recipient of Samantha, a Victorian-era doll whose adventures include traveling to Paris.
As she does for each American Girl doll recipient, Lord traveled to Cherryfield to deliver Samantha in person. But on her three-hour drive back home to Topsham, Lord couldn’t stop thinking about the little library.
“This library is full of creativity and care for its patrons with two wonderful directors who really do it all — even repair the building when the wind tears a portion of siding off,” Lord wrote on her Facebook page. “And their book budget is $0. Yes, that’s right. Zero for books.”
Lord called on her fellow book lovers to bring a book or two to an upcoming conference to donate to the library.
“She expected to get 20-30 books,” Sawyer said.
Instead, people filled their car trunks with books and promised to send even more.
“I was in tears when I first saw the picture [of all the donations],” Sawyer said.
On average, the library buys and receives about 50 books total per year. In the last two weeks, it has received over 500 titles. Sawyer and Upton expect up to 1,000 book donations total.
“These are more titles I’ve seen in the last 11 years that I’ve been the library director,” Sawyer said.
She said that the volume of donations is a testament to how integral libraries still are to communities.
“You can’t tell me this many people would donate titles if libraries didn’t matter,” she said.
Although it is small, the Cherryfield Free Public Library is a big part of the community, whether it’s for preschoolers who come to weekend story time or seniors who come for tech classes.
“Libraries are no longer storehouses for books anymore. We are a community center,” Sawyer said. “We will fight tooth and nail to keep our doors open.”