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A New Beginning: Groundbreaking For A New Swan’s Island Library in Maine-Funded through USDA and the Recovery Act

Little groundbreakers Meri Rainford and Morgan Matthews.

Little groundbreakers Meri Rainford and Morgan Matthews.

It isn’t every day you celebrate a groundbreaking on an island 6 miles off the Maine coast- but that is just what I did last week along with United States Senator Susan Collins and other officials in order to mark the beginning of construction on the new Swan’s Island Library.

This was a momentous occasion for USDA Rural Development, the Library’s Director Candis Joyce and Board of Trustees President Ken Dutille, as well as the estimated 350 year-round residents of the island community. The former library, historical museum and landmark, the Old Atlantic Schoolhouse, built in 1903, was struck by lightning and burned to the ground in July of 2008.

The ceremony was witnessed by a gathering of nearly 200 people – residents and tourists alike – who turned out under sunny skies to show their support for this important community project.

I told the group that Libraries change lives in a positive way by promoting learning, strengthening communities, and providing everyone, regardless of income, status, or geographic location, with equal access to information. USDA Rural Development is pleased to play a role in rebuilding the Swan’s Island Library, which is at the heart of this community.

Senator Collins also spoke at the event, saying, “Rebuilding requires hard work, and it requires funding. Your own community fund-raising was extraordinarily successful and creative, and your dedication to the cause reflects the spirit of this special place, where joining hands and working together is a way of life.  What you have accomplished since that devastating fire adds an inspiring new chapter.  Today, rebuilding literally begins and, soon, a beautiful new building will open to become your community’s new center for knowledge, imagination, and friendship.”

The new 3,500 sq ft library is expected to be completed by next spring. Thanks to efforts of dedicated USDA Rural Development staff, the Swan’s Island Educational Society was able to secure grant funds in the amount of $398,000 in the form of a Community Facility Grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The new library means a lot to the island community. For them it is more than just a place to check out books. Watching as ground was broken on the new facility was “Very exhilarating and just such a thrill,” said Swan’s Island Educational Society Director Candis Joyce. 

This project represents the Administration’s Rural Library Initiative that USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack established in December of 2009, which supports the construction, expansion, and renovation of rural libraries across America.]

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel speaks in front of a crowd of 200 while United States Senator Susan M. Collins looks on.

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel speaks in front of a crowd of 200 while United States Senator Susan M. Collins looks on.

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel and United State Senator Susan M. Collins meet the oldest and youngest residents of Swans Island. Oldest: Steve McCormick, former White House aide and reporter, age 96, and youngest, 1 week old Josephine Walker, held by her father Kevin Walker.

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel and United State Senator Susan M. Collins meet the oldest and youngest residents of Swans Island. Oldest: Steve McCormick, former White House aide and reporter, age 96, and youngest, 1 week old Josephine Walker, held by her father Kevin Walker.

From Left to Right with Shovels: Swan’s Island Educational Society President of Board of Directors Ken Dutille; United States Senator Susan M. Collins; Swan’s Island resident Ashley Tapley; USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel; and resident Morgan Matthews.

From Left to Right with Shovels: Swan’s Island Educational Society President of Board of Directors Ken Dutille; United States Senator Susan M. Collins; Swan’s Island resident Ashley Tapley; USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel; and resident Morgan Matthews.

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