South China Library project breaks new ground

Volunteers at the South China Public Library include, from left to right, Katie Bailey, Marcia Hall, Darlene Zimmerman, Marcia Tobey, Angel Hall-Stuart, Bob Bennett, Carol Thibodeau, Aurie Maxwell, James Maxwell, Ian Maxwell, Andrew Maxwell, Sarah Breton, Melissa Campbellton, Xavier Colfer, Cheryl Baker, Gabrielle Colfer, Danielle Pettengill, Aiden Pettengill and Jean Dempster, library board of directors president. (Photo by Eric Austin)

by Eric W. Austin

There’s a new driveway off Jones Road in South China, hidden by the surrounding trees. If you drive too fast, you might miss it. The driveway leads to the soon-to-be new location of the South China Library, and there’s a lot of work going on there.

More than 30 people gathered at the site on Monday, August 6, to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony for the new location. Purchased in June of 2016, the property also includes the historic 1815 Rufus M. Jones house next door, which will eventually be restored as an historic site and open to the public.

At the groundbreaking, Jean Dempster, president of the library board of directors, thanked volunteers and community members for their support. Dempster also thanked volunteer Jeff Zimmerman and China Codes Enforcement Officer Paul Mitnik for all of their help with planning and permits.

In the coming months, a modular classroom, donated by the Town of China, will be moved to the site, followed by new construction. The final phase will be moving the original library building from its current location on Village Street to the new site at 33 Jones Road.

“The driveway, earthworks, and bringing in the modular classroom are first,” Dempster announced. “Then some new construction for the bathrooms!” This last brought cheers from the crowd, as the library’s current location lacks facilities.

The South China Library, established in 1830, is the oldest continuously-operating library in the state of Maine. The current building was completed in 1900, with an addition in 1980. The South China Library Association was incorporated as a nonprofit in 1912.

There’s still a long road ahead for the initiative, and fundraising goals will need to be met for the project to remain on schedule, but the groundbreaking marked a major milestone in the years-long effort.

“You’ll see more progress soon,” Dempster concluded, “and it’s been everybody’s great work making this happen. Thank you!”

To contribute to the project or volunteer, please contact the library at 445-3094 or visit



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