Libraries raise funds to help build Lac-Megantic library

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Reprinted courtesy of: Franklin Sun Journal

By: Ann Bryant

FARMINGTON — When the downtown area of Lac-Megantic was destroyed in the deadly July 6 oil train derailment, the Quebec town also lost its library, the Bibliotheque de Lac-Megantic.

Libraries across the state are posting this sign on donation cans for the next few weeks to replace the Lac-Megantic, Quebec, library that was destroyed in the July 6 oil train derailment and fire.

Libraries across the state are joining to raise funds to help rebuild the library. Donation cans are available for the next few weeks at the circulation desks of participating libraries. Monetary donations will help with the Canadian town's replacement of the building, computers and materials.

An entire collection, estimated at 60,000 items, was lost, Farmington Public Library Director Melanie Coombs said in a statement. The only books that were saved were those that had been signed out by patrons, she said.

"The library served three thousand community members each month," Coombs said. "Much of the collection is irreplaceable, as the library housed historical records, books and photographs documenting the town's history."

As Lac-Megantic's sister city since 1991, Farmington responded with firefighters to the scene, traveling nearly 100 miles to help extinguish the massive fire. The unattended 72-car Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway train rolled downhill for about seven miles before it derailed and exploded in the early hours of July 6. An estimated 47 people died and at least 30 downtown buildings were destroyed as a result of the derailment and resulting fire from tanker cars filled with crude oil.

The Farmington community responded by setting up a fund at TD Bank to help the town rebuild.

Coombs and staff debated how to help since the Lac-Megantic library was in the midst of the town's hardest hit area. She reached out to the Canadian librarian to see what they were going to do.

She then reached out to 1,100 librarians from libraries, schools and universities across the state, she said.

"There was an immediate response from the library community, wanting to do something," she said Friday.

Coombs wanted the fundraising effort to be simple and easy, so she coordinated with the Maine State Library, which posted the information and media on their website. Those include her release, a release from the Canadian librarian and bookmarks, posters and labels to place over cans for donations on their website. These can be printed from the site atwww.maine.gov/msl/libs/lac-megantic.htm, she said.

"Everyone has been very responsive," Coombs added.  "One little girl came back into the Farmington Public Library with a $20 bill and said, 'This is for the library that burned down.'"

Permission to use a photo taken by Farmington Fire and Rescue at the scene of the fire was granted by fire Chief Terry Bell and a press release was written. A release from the Canadian librarian was also added, she said.

"The state librarian has been very supportive," she added.

Donations will be accepted through mid-September, and all donations are greatly appreciated, she said.

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