High above the din of Congress Street in Portland, is a hidden treasure: the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association’s library, a private library which dates back to the 19th century. Although created as a library for apprentices in 1815, today it boasts an outstanding collection of fiction and non-fiction, as well as Maine books. Just heading up the stairs puts you into a different world. You enter into through double doors, into a large room with high ceilings, with portraits of “mechanics” lining two sides of the room, and exhibits in glass cases to show off the Association’s treasures. Mostly, though, you will see wonderful books right at your fingertips. Pat Larrabee, the librarian, says that the collection is a great resource for book clubs, who often read the classics. (In fact, the first Tuesday of each month a book club meets, enjoying tea and pastries, conversation and laughter). They don’t usually weed at the Maine Charitable Mechanic, so you will often find well loved copies of old books, that are usually tossed onto the booksale cart at most libraries if they haven’t been checked out in the past decade. The Library also has art exhibits, and is open, outside of their usual hours, on First Fridays. Highlights for me of this collection are the travel videos and DVDS – many of which are products of the travelogue series that the Association sponsors. Books and videos aside, it’s worth a visit just to enjoy the ambience. (And one of the things I love most about visiting this library is the chocolates and cookies often lying around).
The Maine Charitable library, located at 519 Congress St., is open Tuesday through Thursday, 10-3, and First Fridays. Membership is $25 a year, but anyone is welcome to take a look around and enjoy the exhibits. For more information: www.mainecharitablemechanicassociation.com or call 207-773-8396