Several years ago, a group of library folks on Casco Bay had a day-long junket visiting libraries on the bay. Out of that, came an idea to write about these libraries in a series of blog posts for the Long Island Community Library blog.
I started first with the Peaks Island Branch of the Portland Public Library. On the first Saturday in January I found myself on Peaks Island, and trotted over to visit my friend Priscilla at the island library. Despite the busy traffic in and out of the library, Priscilla, the branch director, and her assistant Rose Ann, took the time to talk libraries with me, mostly about outreach ventures, i.e., how to get folks into the library, especially in the winter and on evenings. Priscilla and Rose Ann were full of ideas, such as their upcoming Library Pajama Party (an evening of bedtime stories for kids 5-8), a book group where various member take turns hosting, and a Saturday evening film series. In the past they offered a monthly craft night, where various community members would offer to teach a craft.
Alas, it was too soon time to catch the ferry back to Portland, but not before I checked out a book! Having a Portland Public Library card allows me to borrow a book on Peaks Island and return it at the main branch. That was an unexpected bonus. So, with a copy of “Chopin’s Garden” by Peaks Island author Eleanor Lincoln Morse under my arm, I headed back to the ferry, with reading material for the ride back to Portland and the warmth in my heart of visiting another lovely island library in winter.
For more information on the Peaks Island Branch Library see: http://www.portlandlibrary.com/locations/peaks.htm
(Peaks Islander Jerri Blatt is now the branch library manager, replacing Priscilla Webster this past year, and the branch is now renovated!)
Next, we head to the Diamond Islands to see what they offer their communities as far as libraries. On Great Diamond Island, Elwell Hall, in the village, has a small library, created by Jane Laughlin. It’s seasonal, open in the summer to Diamond Island Association members and their guests, when the hall, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, is open.
It’s mostly items donated, including cookbooks, fiction, and children’s books.
On the fort side, there is a small library in the Diamond Cove Association building. Both of these libraries are informal, without a checking out system. Mostly a book swap of sorts. On Little Diamond, there is no physical place for a library, but people do read a lot in the summer, and have an informal book swap. So, if there is a need for a good book to read, after the ferry leaves, there are opportunities available on Little and Great Diamond Islands.
Cliff Island’s library is probably the only official library in Casco Bay that is housed in a classic turn-of-the-century cottage, built in 1907. Perched on a hillside, just beyond the community hall, which houses the post office and historical society, this beautiful library was named after Floraetta Stone (The Stone Library), a co-founder of the library (1907) and the Cliff Island Library Club which still operates the library. The library offers services in the summer only (although has been known to be open in the winter in the past). The paid librarian, Amy Lent, is also the postmaster (a true Mainer!). Although the library is technically a membership library, it balances being a public library by offering services to anyone who needs it. Books, books-on-tape, CDs, DVDs are offered, as well as classic Maine books – all of which can be accessed through the library’s automated catalog. There is even a teen room. Best of all is a wonderful porch where one can sit and enjoy reading, while gazing between the trees at the water. What more could one want!
Many years ago, on a cold winter’s day, a group of us from Long Island visited the Chebeague Island Library. Why? We were visiting various libraries to get ideas for our new library, which we were in the process of planning to build. Then librarian Martha Hamilton was our gracious host, showing us their beautiful library. It was warm and bright and colorful with various areas perfect for curling up with books, and a cozy and cheerful children’s area. It was definitely a delightful visit, which gave us much inspiration for planning our own library.
Today the library continues to be a bright spot for Chebeague residents – the current librarian, Deb Bowman, says…” We try to provide what the community needs or wants. … We have done so much here, dancing, drumming, movies, poetry (lots of poetry), art displays, music, and so much more. Book group, iPad classes, prayer book making, and it goes on and on.” One clever idea was to dress up the front display table with bedclothes and invite patrons to fill out a card which asked “What do you read in bed?”
Deb says their mission statement drives her vision for the library: “The Chebeague Island Library provides a welcoming center to foster the learning of the entire Island Community. The Library cultivates knowledge and enjoyment and brings enrichment and stimulus to Chebeague through diverse collections, innovative technology, research and educational resources, programs and services in response to Island interests.”
For more information on the Chebeague Island Library see: http://chebeague.chebeague.lib.me.us/
Finally, our journey amongst the island libraries takes me back home to the Long Island Community Library, which was constructed around 2003. Prior to that, the library was located in the basement of the island school. So this beautiful library is a vast improvement, with a spacious library which incorporates a children’s area, reading nook, work room, small meeting room, as well as an all-purpose room with stage, and art gallery that connects the old school with the library. A full basement contains a wellness center, historical society archives, and storage area, which will soon be renovated to create more usage and better storage. Every other year the library has their fundraiser, “Art and Soul” which features a book sale, baked goods, silent art auction, and raffle baskets. The library is open every day, thanks to a cadre of dedicated volunteers, ably led by volunteer librarian Paula Johnson, who retired recently from many years as an island schoolteacher.
For more on the Long Island Community Library:
All these libraries prove that reading and literacy is alive and well in Casco Bay, whether it’s summer folks reading on the beach or porch, or the year round community finding joy in having books available without having to leave their islands, as well as some islanders having a cozy warm spot to hang out on winter days.