Winter is here! Well, at least according to Casco Bay Lines. My heart always drops to see the cold blue color of the winter schedule, which runs from October through April. Yes, winter is 6 months long in Casco Bay! Well, us book lovers make the best of it and anticipate spending the dark evenings sitting by the fire, reading all those long tomes we put off during the other more inclement and lighter months, perhaps that Moby Dick or Gone with the Wind that we’ve been waiting for a “rainy day” to read (i.e., snow, sleet, hail, or whatever the gods bring us). And thanks to the longer check-out period that the Long Island Community Library is hoping to set into motion soon (from 2 weeks to 3 weeks), we will now have more time to read the wonderful selection of library books offered by our own island library. So, now that “winter” is here, it’s time to head to the library, and stock up on your favorite authors, as well as the wonderful array of films that are waiting to be viewed (including the recently viewed movies shown at our foreign film night). Enjoy!
A few months ago I wrote about the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association Library, as well as the Maine Irish Heritage Center Library – both of which are elegant destinations in and of themselves, let alone the books they hold. Here are a few more libraries to investigate:
The Greater Portland Landmarks Frances W. Peabody Library is located at 93 High Street, in the Stafford House. The GPL library is the “only library specializing in architecture, preservation, and restoration.” The staff is dedicated to making the collection of books and magazines on architecture, home improvement, and preservation a useful resource to members of the Landmarks, as well as researchers interested in the history of their house and neighborhood.
If art is your thing, the Maine College of Art’s Joanne Waxman Library on Congress Street has the best view and sunshine in which to relax and read. Although you have to be a student or own a library card to check books out, Library Director Moira Steven welcomes folks in the community to just enjoy reading, in this large open modern library, the numerous art books and periodicals that she has available. Moira says, “We have approximately 30,000 titles and 100 journal subscriptions, 85% of which are art-related. Our Special Collections room holds over 500 titles, many of them examples of Victoria printing and binding as well as an artist book collection of over 150 titles. We hold exhibitions of student and community art and thematic displays of art and design titles throughout the academic year.”
If your interests lean towards religion and spirituality, Portland is most fortunate to have the Bangor Theological Seminary General Theological Library. This library is in the same building as the State Street Church offices, just up the street from the Maine Irish Heritage Center. (Go upstairs for the church office, and downstairs for the Seminary offices, classrooms, and library). Librarian Laurie McQuarrie is available to help you navigate your way through their collections of theological books and periodicals. While their primary mission is to serve their faculty and students, the public is welcome to use the library. Sadly, though, this library will no longer be with us after next summer, as Bangor Theological Seminary will no longer be granting degrees, thus no library. So, visit this library while you can.
So, if art, architecture, and religion is your thing, these three downtown Portland libraries offer wonderful resources, including books to absorb and relish.
Another great Portland special library to visit is the Maine Irish Heritage Center library, on the corner of Gray and State Streets. Housed in the old St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, the library just opened in May of 2009. Under the tutelage and guidance of volunteer librarian Susan Flaherty, this library has grown into a wonderful resource of Irish literature, and boasts subjects such as religion, travel, history, and language. They even have Irish music cassettes, movies, knitting patterns, and just about anything else Irish you can imagine. Members are allowed to check out items, for a period of one month. Often on the Tuesday afternoons that the library is open, you can enter in through the front door of the church, which allows you to wander in through the beautiful sanctuary before entering into the library itself, which also has wonderful atmosphere, with high ceilings and a large wooden sacramental dresser now used for storing library materials.
This summer there is also, at the center, an exhibit of the photographs of our fellow Casco Bay Islander – Bill Finney of Great Diamond Island. His images, often of landscapes, are breathtaking.
For more information:
Maine Irish Heritage Center Library, 34 Gray Street (corner of State), www.maineirish.com, 207-780-0118, Tuesdays 4-6
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