As early as 1931 efforts were made to create a library on Long Island. A letter in the Long Island Historical Society archives is evidence of this. On February 10, 1931, Postmaster Everett E. Clarke wrote a letter to Mrs. Fred Demarest regarding a donation of books for a library on Long Island. Everett wrote: “We have a nice library started here and are collecting books for it by asking our friends to look around and see if they can’t find one more book they can share for our library.”
There was a small lending library in the home of Derrick and Charlotte Gibbens (where our current library director, Paula Johnson, lives) in Harbor de Grace in the 1970s. Portland Public Library would later send books to the school that could be borrowed. But it wasn’t until the 1980s that a real effort was made to create a library for the islanders. At first Alan Bernstein offered the Long Island Civic Association a 100-square foot lot at the northwest corner of Ocean and Beach for a possible library site. But by March 1988 when LICA president Francis Murphy announced in the LICA newsletter, “We have been successful, with cooperation from the City of Portland, in receiving an allocation of $2,700 of current Community Development funds for developing an island library and community center in our school building,” a committee had already been hard at work.
The committee members were:
James Dodwell and Nancy Jordan, co-chairs
Jacquie [Lunt] King
That summer an open house was held, to celebrate the new space, including fundraising for more books. Christine Caliandro established the Ernest Caliandro Memorial Fund, in memory of her husband, whose monies were used to purchase a Maine and regional collection. Bobbie Blaisdell was primarily responsible for the content of this Maine collection: she combed second hand book stores to find all the old Maine classics that we now have. Jacqui Lunt asked Portland merchants to donate office supplies, including Loring, Short and Harmon, and another business donated four colorful little chairs for the children’s corner, and a carpet. Linda Greene painted all the walls and the floor. And many folks processed the early book donations. The new space was lovely and inviting.
By December of 1988 Nancy Jordan was inviting everyone to enjoy the new library in the Long Island Civic Association newsletter. “Looking for a friendly, cozy spot to spend a winter Wednesday evening? Try the new library!” She goes on to say that “we now have approximately 2500 books ready to read… Fifteen busy volunteers are keeping the library open 4 times a week, plus providing a weekly story hour for 2 age groups and Saturday matinees. … 63 of us have library cards and we are circulating 35 books a week, not counting magazines and paperbacks. Two island organizations are using the library for monthly meetings.”
By 1989 computers became available for public use and a book discussion group was started. However, by 2001 the space so happily begun in 1988 was inadequate and plans started to build a new library/school addition. And the rest is history!
A small exhibit about the history of the library can be seen in the Long Island Community Library’s small glass class. It includes photographs, photocopies of items from the Long Island Historical Society, and excerpts from the Long Island Civic Association’s newsletters, which celebrates 30 years in the current building, where our beautiful library now stands.
Open during library hours