Tag Archives: Portland Public Library

Cuala Press

In this month of March, when we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I would like to share with you another wonderful treasure in the Portland Room of the Portland Public Library, the Cuala Press collection. This special collection of greeting cards, prints, and book covers was given to the public library by James Augustine Healy (1890-1975), a philanthropist and active proponent of Irish literature. He also gave Cuala Press materials to Colby College. (Healy had a summer home on Chebeague Island, to give further connection to our island community). The Maine Irish Heritage Center also owns some Cuala Press books.

The Cuala Press (pronounced coo-la) was an Irish private press set up in 1908 by Elizabeth Yeats and Lily Yeats, the sisters of William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet, dramatist, and writer. Their brother Jack provided illustrations for some of the works of the press, which promoted Irish cultural heritage and decorative arts. It was also the only Arts and Crafts press to be run and staffed by women (which also helps us to celebrate Women’s History Month in March).

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)

Knit for Your Neighbors – Sit n’ Knit

How’s this for a great idea?
Yesterday, at the Portland Public Library, they had a gathering of knitters, to kick off an initiative to knit items to keep people warm, such as hats, mittens, and scarves. So, gather those items you have already made, and drop them off at the Reference Desk at PPL, or make this an inspiration to gather up your needles or hooks and knit and crochet to keep our neighbors warm! (just in time for this brisk weather we’re having)

After I stopped in to PPL to check out the activities, I stopped in a downtown store to buy a candle, on my way to the ferry – the woman behind the checkout desk was knitting hand warmers, so I told her all about the PPL initiative, and gave her the hat knitting pattern I had picked up at the sit ‘n knit. She was very excited!

I love when libraries and knitting intersect* – well done, Meg Gray, the Science and Technology Librarian at PPL, who organized the activity and initiative.

For more information:


And about collecting the items:


*Just a reminder that at our own Long Island Community Library, we have a group of knitters that gather on Thursday afternoons – no doubt they are knitting up items such as these for various charities. If you are a knitter (or crafter, in general), I’m sure they would love to have you join in!

Comic artists: exhibit at Portland Public Library this month

There is a fabulous comic exhibit at the Portland Public Library this month, up for a few more days – if you have a chance stop by! Here is more information about it:

June 1 – 23, 2018:
30×30: Comic Artists
Held in conjunction with the Maine Comic Arts Festival
Portland Public Library and Casablanca Comics celebrate the comic arts in our June 2018 exhibit, 30”x30”. Artists’ panels will be enlarged to an exaggerated size to amplify the expression and detail of each unique work, creating the experience of a giant comic strip throughout the Lewis Gallery. Though the works are non-sequential, each artist has submitted their comic book vision of a library scene—a visual love letter to libraries everywhere. 30”x30” premiers in conjunction with the Maine Comic Arts Festival (MeCAF) at Portland Public Library, a day-long celebration of comics arts and creators (held June 2nd)

Coffeehouse Library Project

PPL outreach 3Several of us islanders like to wait for the ferry in places other than the ferry terminal, including Portland’s numerous watering holes and cafes. But what if you have no reading materials while drinking your cappuccino? Thanks to the Coffeehouse Library Project, an outreach of the Portland Public Library, great books are at your fingertips, with no due dates or fees – just return the books when you are done! This is where I found the wonderful “Under the wild and starry sky” by Nancy Horan, about Fanny Stevenson, the wife of Robert Louis Stevenson. Brilliant!

PPL outreach 2

So, next time you are killing time, waiting for the ferry, settle in to a great cup of coffee or tea … and a book!

For more information see:

https://www.portlandlibrary.com/highlight/coffeehouse-library-project/PPL outreach 1


Of Sea and Cloud

Of interest to Long Island readers:

Jon Keller speaks about “Of Sea and Cloud” at the Brown Bag Lecture Series Wednesday, August 26 – 12:00pm – 1:00pm

Location: Main Library

spring on Long Island black and whiteNicolas Graves raised his sons to be lobstermen. Bill and Joshua (known as Jonah) Graves grew up aboard their father’s boat–the Cinderella–learning the rules and rites of the antiquated business they love. But when their father is lost at sea and the price of lobster crashes worldwide, Bill and Jonah must decide how much they are willing to risk for their family legacy. Standing against them is Osmond Raymond–former Calvinist minister, mystic, captain of the Sanctity, and their father’s business partner for more than twenty years. Together with his grandson and heir, Julius, Osmond is determined to push the Graves family out of their lobster pound, regardless of the cost or the consequences.

About the author Jon Keller holds an MFA from Boise State University. After graduate school, he moved to the coast of Maine and spent several years working aboard a lobster boat and writing for a commercial fishing newspaper. He is now a clam digger on the coast of Maine.

About the Series » Brown Bag Lecture Series

Portland Public Library’s Brown Bag Lecture Series features bi-weekly reading and question-and-answer sessions with authors from around the nation as well as those who hail from right here in Maine. All Brown Bag Lectures are free to the public (unless specifically noted as a fundraiser). Because they usually take place over the lunch hour, guests are encouraged to bring their lunch; coffee provided by Coffee By Design. Special thanks to our Brown Bag Lecture Series coffee sponsor, Coffee by Design, and welcome to our new refreshment sponsor, Whole Foods. Books on sale at each lecture courtesy of Longfellow Books, who generously donates a portion of the proceeds to the Portland Public Library. Questions about our Brown Bag Lectures or to be added to our weekly calendar e-mail, please send us an e-mail. – See more at: https://www.portlandlibrary.com/events/jon-keller-speaks-about-of-sea-and-cloud-at-the-brown-bag-lecture-series/#sthash.dNxM8bML.dpuf

Maker Fair at PPL- April 25

Student art show 5

Portland’s Maker Fair | April 25, 2015 | Portland Public Library


WHEN: Saturday, April 25 | 11:00am-4:00pm

WHERE: Main Library and Monument Square


Makers@PPL offers a day of hands-on workshops

and exhibits in five themes: creative arts, food & drink,

entrepreneurship, local history, and science & tech-

nology—highlighting the importance of the STEM

subjects (science, technology, engineering, math).

These workshops and presentations not only teach,

but are fun and engaging.



robots, flying airplanes, 3D printing, bee keeping, cheese tastings,

calligraphy, bike repair, table saw trainings, map making,

screenprinting, and much, much more.


One big family-friendly day of making new things and trying new skills…

Mark your calendars and join in the fun!






Free and open to the public. No registration required.

For more information, visit www.portlandlibrary.com/highlight/makers-ppl

or call 871-1700 x 284.


Portland Public Library | 5 Monument Square, Portland | 207.871.1700 | portlandlibrary.com


Love in Maine

Valentine cookies

Looking for a literary, artistic, or historical spin on love this month? All sorts of options are available, right in Portland, Maine!

The Maine Historical Society is offering this month “Love in the Longfellow House: Couples Guided Tour,” complete with champagne, chocolate, roses, and valentines.


On February 18th, I’ll be sharing some of our historic valentines at a Maine Memory Network presentation:


Just a block away, at the Portland Public Library, on February 14th is an afternoon of “frightfully good tales that will add chills to your holiday of otherwise hot romance:”

Our Bloody Valentines: Love Notes, in which the Tuesday Mayhem Society, a group of local authors centered in Lisbon Falls, who are dedicated to carrying on the literary traditions of Poe, Lovecraft, Bradbury, and King, will be exploring the concepts of Love, Sex, and Murder through our fiction and poetry at the Portland Public Library: http://www.portlandlibrary.com/events/bloody-valentines-love-notes-tuesday-mayhem-society/#sthash.KWFWnVPB.dpuf

And, if you haven’t had your fill by then of twisted love, you can head down the hill to the Osher Map Library for a Valentine’s Day celebration at 5 p.m. which includes a talk on “Mapping Desire: Erotic Imagery in Old World Cartography.” Osher Map Library Acting Director Ian Fowler will present an enticing lecture covering the representation of love and the human body in cartography through the ages.  Cash bar and tasty treats will be served.


Finally, if you need a little guidance in writing a love letter, head to the Glickman Library at USM for a workshop by Arielle Greenberg on “How to write poems for your lover(s),” hosted by the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance:


Happy Valentines Day from the Long Island Community Library!

Quilt exhibits in libraries

There seems to be a plethora of quilts being exhibited in libraries this month. What a wonderful way to brighten up winter in Maine! I stumbled on the first one at the Falmouth Public Library – such beautiful quilts, including one made with old handkerchiefs. These quilts were made by the Cobblestone Quilters, a group of over 85 members who are interested in quilting, fabric art, and sewing.  Cobblestone quilters are active in the community donating quilts to Maine veterans, Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, the neonatal unit at Maine Medical Center, and Meals on Wheels.  They make raffle quilts to support Habitat for Humanity, Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Boys and Girls Club. Over 25 quilts by Cobblestone Quilters are on display during the month of February.  These quilts represent a variety of quilting styles, techniques, and fabric choices.

Then I read about an exhibit being held at the Portland Public Library downtown branch:


This is a traveling exhibit: Members of Art Quilts Maine, a statewide guild chapter dedicated to the exploration of contemporary quilt art, respond to an annual challenge with diverse and colorful results. This year’s challenge, issued in October 2013, is titled, “By These Words . . .” Quilts were to be inspired by Words—poetry, quote, idiom, saying. Eight members met the challenge, and the collection went on view in July at Maine Quilts 2013. Since then they have been on exhibit in Farmington and Skowhegan, and will travel to Waterville when they leave Portland.

Finally, I just came across this exhibit, held at the Wells Public Library, of quilts by Ernest Nason, a local artist who worked as a carpenter for many years. When an injury took him off his feet for a while, he decided to take up quilting.

I leave you with a picture of one of our island quilts, exhibited this summer at the Long Island Historical Society space:Quilt at the Long Island Historical Society

Peaks Island Branch of the Portland Public Library

First in a new series of blogs about our neighboring Casco Bay island libraries, we start 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