Category Archives: Libraries

Volunteers welcome and appreciated!

Where would we be without volunteers? At the Long Island Community Library we would be nowhere. This volunteer run library exists due to the many hours of volunteers giving their time, which allow the library to be open every day of the week in the summer, and most days the rest of the year. Volunteers not only keep the library open, but they curate gallery shows, provide tech support, bake goods for events, write blogs, run programs, organize a continuous book sale, and generally make sure that the library is a safe and fun place for families, seniors, and all of the community.

In August we celebrated these volunteers with a lovely event in the library, full of delicious food, beautiful flowers, great conversation, and a time to thank departing board members and library staff. We are so grateful to our volunteers! If you are interested in volunteering, please let us know.

Marvelous tales and adventures: the Children’s Special Collection at the Portland Public Library’s Portland Room

Many years ago, fresh out of graduate school for library science, I landed my first professional job as a grant cataloger of 19th century American children’s literature at the esteemed American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Although I found the books that I catalogued to be fairly depressing (which echoed my life at the time) with their pious and moralistic themes, it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for classic children’s literature and illustration, which I have always loved. One of my happiest memories as a child was reading “The Adventures of Uncle Lubin” (first published in 1902) with my grandmother, as well as reading books on my own such as A Little Princess (by Frances Hodgson Burnett), Hans Brinker, or, The Silver Skates (by Mary Mapes Dodge), and all the Wizard of Oz books (by L. Frank Baum). My imagination was also stirred through the illustrations of books, such as those by Beatrix Potter, Arthur Rackham, and Kate Greenaway. In fact, when in graduate school I was assigned to create an exhibit (on paper) on any subject of my choice, I chose to create an exhibit based on the clothing in Kate Greenaway’s books (with my premise that the clothing of the time was influenced by Kate Greenaway).

So, imagine my delight when I finally perused the marvelous books in the Portland Room’s Children’s Special Collection. (I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that it took me over 25 years to finally sit down and look at these amazing books). On my lunch hour one day this winter I wandered over to the Portland Room, where Special Collections Librarian Abraham Schechter allowed me to immerse myself into the magical books behind the glass sliding doors. I spent a very happy hour oohing and aahing over the book bindings and illustrations throughout many of these books, including endpapers.

My first question, though, was “Where did these books come from?” Abraham said that they were in the previous home of the Portland Public Library in the Baxter Building. Investigating the bookplates and inscriptions explained some of the provenance beyond that.

The most well-known children’s book authors, from both sides of the Atlantic, can be found in this collection, including Louisa May Alcott (Little Women), J. M. Barrie (Peter Pan), L. Frank Baum (Wizard of Oz), Frances Hodgson Burnett (Secret Garden), Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), Kenneth Grahame (Wind in the Willows), Rudyard Kipling (Jungle Book), and Robert Louis Stevenson (Kidnapped). Lesser known to today’s modern audiences, but very popular in their time, are G. A. Henty (known for adventure fiction and historical fiction), Harriett Lothrop (Five Little Peppers series), and Oliver Optic (pseudonym for William Taylor Adams). Closer to home are Maine authors Jacob Abbott (best known for the Rollo books), Sophie May (pseudonym for Rebecca Sophia Clarke, and best known for the Little Prudy series), Kate Douglas Wiggin (Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm), and Josephine Perry, the wife of Admiral Robert Peary, who wrote “Snow baby” with her daughter Marie Ahnighito Peary.

And, oh, the illustrations! I found books illustrated by Howard Pyle, N. C. Wyeth, W. Heath Robinson, Randolph Caldecott, Arthur Rackham, Beatrix Potter, and Kate Greenaway. Even William Blake, the English poet and painter, is represented.

There are also wonderful fairy tales, such as those by Andrew Lang, Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, and Charles Perrault. There are books in several languages, including French, German, Spanish, and Italian.

Alas, I could only begin to skim the surface in surveying these 600+ books. I hope I can return soon, to really delight in these beautiful books in a more leisurely way. (Here are more of my photographs of this marvelous collection)

LICL Book Group

Exciting news! After several years of not having a book group at the Long Island Community Library, a new group is up and running! Started by “the two Lindas,” Linda Greene and Linda McCann, we meet the 2nd Monday of each month at 1 p.m. Our initial meeting last November brought together a group of enthusiastic islanders, full of ideas and suggestions about books to read and how to proceed. We started with The wind in my hair : my fight for freedom in modern Iran, by Masih Alinejad with Kambiz Foroohar (her husband). Following that we read Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships, by Nina Totenburg of NPR, about her friendships, including with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Following two books by journalists, we are turning to fiction, with Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Our next choice for March is by a Maine author: The Midcoast, by Adam White.

This is a great way to get to know your fellow islanders on a deeper level, sharing our love for good books. All are welcome!

Ode to Jane Austen

Last month I had the wonderful experience of visiting Jane Austen’s home in Chawton, England, in Hampshire. Her house is on the main street in the little village of Chawton, and it was a lovely autumn day for wandering throughout her home, with costumes from recent Jane Austen films interspersed throughout the rooms. One room had an exhibit about “Jane Austen in love.” I especially loved seeing the colorful wallpaper, with shades of yellow and green, throughout the house. Outside of the house was a peaceful garden, as well as a wonderful gift shop, full of books, tea, fudge, ornaments, and even Jane Austen ducks!

We ate lunch across the street at “Cassandra’s Cup,” named after Jane’s sister Cassandra, which had teacups hanging from the ceiling, and a delicious variety of paninis.

From there we strolled up the street to Chawton House, which was owned by Jane’s brother Edward.

“Lucky Edward” was adopted into the Knight family, relatives of Jane’s family. Jane and her mother and sister often visited Edward at Chawton House, and they attended the little church nearby, St. Nicholas Church. Jane’s mother and sister are buried in the church yard there.

Chawton House houses the research library of The Centre for the Study of Early Women’s Writing, 1600–1830, using the building’s connection with Jane Austen. While we were at the house, there was a wonderful exhibit about women travel writers.

While I can’t claim to have read all of Jane Austen’s books, it was wonderful to delve into her life, and learn a lot more about this amazing woman writer, who is one of the best known and loved authors of all times.

Art and Soul returns

We’re back! After a several year hiatus, Art and Soul is back – on Saturday, July 16th. Come shop at the used book sale, delight over baked goods, bid on that piece of artwork that will go in that perfect space on your wall, and purchase a raffle ticket for one of our beautiful baskets. We even have Beanie babies for sale! We are working hard getting the library ready for a busy day.

Brenda’s Book Box

What a wonderful place we live! Long Island now has a new outlet for books, sort of like a “Little Free Library.” In this case it’s a pink painted refrigerator, called “Brenda’s Book Box.” Located at 604 Fern Ave., this little library was lovingly made by Brenda’s husband Dave.

Brenda’s mission is to encourage reading and exchanging of books:





So, next time you are out for a walk, be sure to bring a book to swap… at Brenda’s Book Box!

10 years of LICL blogs

This month I celebrate 10 years of writing blogs for the Long Island Community Library – it’s been a joy and a privilege, and allows me an opportunity to blog about subjects near and dear to my heart, including our island library, books, and reading.

The posts are a variety – some just share information, and some are more thoughtful and original. We love having guest bloggers, such as when Lorinda Valls wrote about a trip to Monroeville, Alabama, home of Harper Lee, and Nancy Jordan wrote about the theme of “death of a husband” in literature.

At one point I began an annual blog in January about favorite or notable books that I enjoyed reading in the previous year. An occasional series I started was about authors on the bay, including Dr. Chuck Radis and Kim MacIsaac on Peaks Island, Stephen English and Anne Weber on Great Diamond Island, and our own Charlie Adams.

Various topics caught my interest over the past 10 years, such as books about coffee and tea, and books about Scotland, Ireland, Australia, The West, and Daphne DuMaurier’s Cornwall. Other topics related to literature included books and films about game wardens, pandemics, gardening, world religion, cats, poetry, bicycling, travel, knitting, pilgrimages, war, autism, food (memoirs), mobile librarians, orphans, booksellers, and porches.  Even “Famous men’s wives and lovers in literature” found its way into the blog. I explored topics related to books: Little Free Libraries, book clubs in Portland, Maine authors and poets (Ben Ames Williams, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Richard Blanco, E.B. White), seed libraries, Goodreads, and a few blogs about accessing books during Covid, when we were sadly without our usual access to favorite libraries and bookstores.  

I wrote about island libraries in Casco Bay (Chebeague, Cliff, Peaks, the Diamond Islands) and beyond (Matinicus). I wrote about libraries in Portland that can be walked to from the ferry, and libraries I encountered on my vacations, including in the Adirondacks and Nova Scotia. I profiled our own library’s programs, including our major fundraiser: Art and Soul.

I was able to highlight our exhibits in the small meeting room case, including exhibits about rocks, birds, Long Islanders (publication of the Long Island Civic Association), the history of our island library, the history of photography, Portland pottery, record albums, the Bunny Hop,  Anne Kilham cards, Beanie babies, first ladies, fans and valentines, cookbooks, and plates of barns. At Christmas we often had special holiday exhibits about cookie cutters, snowmen, Santa’s Village, Christmas ornaments and decorations, Advent calendars, a ceramic nativity set, often highlighting items made by or collected by islanders.  

Some of my more esoteric topics include “Which is better, the book or the movie?,” revisiting classic books, and common themes in books.

Curt Murley set up the WordPress site for blogging in May of 2012, and contributed the first blog about the library used books table – a few days later was my first blog about films that take place in Paris. I’m not exactly sure how it came about that I volunteered to write the blogs. I seem to recall Maggie Carle, in our library board meeting when we first talked about writing blogs for the library website, saying how difficult it is to keep blogs going –  so I’m very pleased that I’ve been inspired to write about something every month for the past ten years. Many thanks to the faithful few who actually read these blogs – I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them!

A fellow island library – Matinicus Island

My bucket list includes a visit to Matinicus Island. Some people think Long Island is the wild frontier, but of all the populated Maine islands, Matinicus seems like the one that is especially on the edge of civilization.

A recent article in the Bangor Daily News, more about banned books than about the library, brought to light this small island’s tiny library. It was picked up by the Smithsonian magazine, NBC news, NPR, Portland Press Herald. One of the best articles is by author Eva Murray, on the Maine Boats website.

I shared the Bangor Daily News article with some of my fellow LICL board members, and we thought that the Matinicus Library’s experience mirrored ours, almost 35 years ago, when we started up our island library. (See our blog post about our own humble beginnings)

The Matinicus Island Library was founded in 2016, beginning its life in an 8×10 foot shed. In 2020 they added an adjoining shed. They now have a children’s room. The library is run solely by volunteers, like the Long Island Community Library. As Eva Murray says, “Matinicus is neither stylish nor convenient as a tourist destination,” which makes it all the more appealing. Hopefully they will someday welcome this fellow islander (and librarian) to their beloved island library.

For information, see their Facebook page.

Librarians across the water

This month brought us a lovely visit from our neighboring library, across the water – The Chebeague Island Library. Library director Chloe Dyer, and Assistant Librarian, Corie Meehan, hopped on a ferry on a late Sunday morning to pay our library and staff a visit. I (Nancy Noble) picked them up, and Paula Johnson and Nancy Jordan greeted them at the entrance to our library. We had a lovely time, showing Chloe and Corie our beautiful library, and talking with them about the history of our library, our programs, and the challenges of running a library during COVID. Our visiting librarians also had a chance to check out the crafters in the Dodwell Gallery.

Many years ago, when we were starting to get ideas for our new (to be built) library, we visited the Chebeague Island Library on a winter’s day, much like this one in December, and loved seeing their wonderful facility (see blog entry for February 2013). Martha Hamilton was the librarian at the time. Since then, Deb Bowman has been the director. Last year she retired, and Chloe was hired. I came across her name on the Maine Libraries Listserv, reached out to her, and invited her to visit our library. Most people say, “yes, sure, I would love to…” (in the summer, maybe…), but Chloe quickly set a date to come visit us. Fortunately, the weather was perfect, and after their visit to the library they had some time to explore the island, before hopping back on the ferry down the bay, back to Chebeague.

I love connecting the various islands, especially through one of our greatest island resources – the library.

Island reading in the time of Coronavirus

If you’re a book lover  this is the prime time to be living on an island. Although our library is closed, there are still a myriad of opportunities for folks who love the written word. First of all, most of us have a “Tsundoko” – it’s a Japanese term, which refers to the stack of books on a bedside table waiting to be read. When that runs out, we can delve into our libraries to reread old favorites. Then, we borrow books from friends (social distancing, of course).

For those who don’t mind reading books on a device, you can download books through a variety of sources, including the Long Island Community Library e-books and audiobooks – see Long Island Community Library website for more information.

Beyond reading books, for those who have access to a computer, there is a whole world out there for literary experiences, as businesses and organizations in the business of the written word are expanding their offerings to the online community.

For example, here in Maine, you can attend poetry readings online such as this one at Longfellow Books’ website, which offers a poetry reading by Scott WithiamLongfellow Books is also willing to mail books.

For the writers in our midst, there are online classes available through the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance

Maine Women Writers Collection offers a fun Instagram as well as a Quarantine Book List by Maine women writers.  Greater Portland Landmarks also offers their suggested book list

That’s just the tip of the iceberg – there are many more out there. (Anyone have any favorites?)

So, there’s no excuse, in these days of quarantine, to not be able to expand your universe beyond the walls of your home – especially through books!