Somesville librarian Tom Lange.  PHOTO COURTESY OF SOMESVILLE LIBRARY   

Somesville librarian retiring after 22 years 

MOUNT DESERT — Tom Lange, the librarian at the tiny Somesville Library for the past 22 years, plans to retire this year, probably at the end of August, and the library’s board of trustees is looking for a successor. 

They know they have their work cut out for them. 

“Tom is amazing,” board member Jen Wales said. “He knows all his patrons so well that he could almost curate a collection for people and their interests. It has not been uncommon for Tom to buy books that he knew someone who is a regular patron would really enjoy or had been looking forward to reading.  

“When summer people come in, he delights in telling them all about the history of the library.” 

And there is a lot of history to tell. The library that sits beside the Mill Pond was built in 1896. 

Wales recalled that when her two young children would occasionally leave her frazzled, she would take them to the library. 

“I would set my pre-schooler up in the children’s room, and my toddler would climb up into Tom’s lap,” she said. “Tom would spend time reading to my toddler while I took a walk or sat quietly in the back room. He loved being with kids and reading to kids.  

“What other librarian would practically babysit for you?” 

Asked what has kept him at the Somesville library for more than two decades, Lange said, “The people, absolutely the people. It’s wonderful to see patrons and visitors come in and be delighted by the books we have to offer and to look forward to coming in on the next rainy or cold day.” 

He said that over the past 22 years, “The board of trustees and I have put the library on a much firmer financial footing, one that will lead us into our next 125 years of service to the community.” 

Lange said of his decision to retire, “I just think the library needs to look at its future with a different perspective. 

“Every library is having to look carefully at what it is, what it needs to do, what it has done well and how it has to change. Readership has been declining as my established patrons retire or move away. And, unfortunately, they are not being replaced by young people who come into the library.”  

Wales said the library board is looking for someone who is creative and energetic and can help the library transition to digital technology, but who also, like Lange, “is happy to put down whatever they’re working on and talk with whoever has come in the door.” 

“We want to dive into some strategic planning, but we didn’t want to do that until we had hired a librarian. We want to bring in someone who will be integral in that process, because whoever is the librarian is really the library.” 

The job description reads, in part: “The position is 15-plus hours/week, requires evening and weekend hours, and the ability to lift 20 pounds and navigate small spaces.”  

The Somesville Library is open year-round on Wednesdays from 1-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. In July and August, it is also open on Mondays from 1-4 p.m. 

Because the librarian’s job is part time, Lange has had the flexibility to continue his work as a private rare book consultant, authenticating, evaluating and appraising rare books, manuscripts and illustrations for libraries, private collectors and dealers. 

“The library board has been very generous in allowing me to pursue that interest,” he said. “I have worked with the National Trust in the United Kingdom, cataloging some of their more obscure libraries.” 

Earlier in his career, Lange was for many years Curator of Early Printed Books and Bindings at the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. 

When he and his now ex-wife, Carrol, moved from southern California to Maine, they were both coming home in a sense. She graduated from College of the Atlantic in 1999, and his parents had owned a house on Sutton Island for many years. 

I had summered here my entire life, and we thought this would be a wonderful place to be and to raise kids,” he said. 

But having found that there is relatively little work for a rare book consultant in Maine, he said, “I realized I had to reinvent myself. And the opportunity to be a librarian here in a whole different world seemed very attractive.” 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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