The world at your fingertips right in your neighborhood.
Portland Public Library’s mission is to serve the Greater Portland Community by providing a diverse collection of books and other resources, with access to information resources worldwide. The library’s services support the educational, informational, and recreational interests of all community members.
The funding model for Portland Public Library (PPL) is anything but intuitive. The “public” in our name might give one the impression that government funding covers our entire operating budget. However, at PPL, government funding (City of Portland, State of Maine and Cumberland County) actually makes up 87% of our $4.2 million operations budget. These public funds pay for staff, utilities, and other infrastructure costs; they do not pay for anything related to our programs, our collections, or our outreach. The books on the shelves, subscriptions to physical and online periodicals, our bookmobile –anything that falls in the 13% of our budget that is allocated to collections and programs is made possible by annual gifts to the Library, earnings from our endowment, foundation support, and fees.
In essence, what PPL is now and can be in the future – our margin of excellence – is the result of a true public/private effort. Public funds ensure we have a building and staff; private generosity guarantees we have a collection and programing that serves every individual who comes to one of our branches or logs onto the Library’s website. As a non-profit organization, PPL is able – indeed, obligated – to raise funds so that we can help all members of the Portland community to enhance their creativity and imagination, increase their level of knowledge, and fully participate in our common, civil life.
So it is with celebration and gratitude that we acknowledge the recent bequest of Franklin Talbot of Portland to our endowment. Franklin Talbot was a colleague, having worked previously at the University of Southern Maine library. His gift of $101,000 will establish the Franklin Talbot Fund and increase the Library’s endowment fund to approximately $5.4 million.
The yearly income from the Talbot Fund will be used to acquire materials and support programs and exhibits in the arts and humanities, with preference for biography, American history, and British history. Mr. Talbot’s gift will support our efforts to provide all Library patrons and visitors with access to materials and programs that promote a greater understanding of the human experience and of the creative process.
All gifts to the Library make an impact, and we are grateful that Mr. Talbot was both generous and creative in giving back to the community by supporting the Library. If you are interested in establishing a named endowment fund at the Library or in including Portland Public Library in your estate plans, please contact Emily Bray Levine at 207-871-1700 x755 or Levine@portland.lib.me.us
Black History Month offers us many invitations for learning. We’re encouraged to learn more about the contributions of individuals in history who may not have originally made our history lessons : black artists, inventors, authors…
We’re also encouraged to learn about American history through a lens of race relations. Understanding more about the experience of slavery, more about the experience of segregation and desegregation, more about the civil rights movement, etc. allows us to make clearer sense of how racism exists today and allows us more tools to address racism in our society.
Finally, Black History Month brings race into our collective awareness, providing us with more opportunities to directly consider race and racism and to commit to new strategies for anti-discrimination. This is a particularly interesting year, as 50 years has passed since the landmark Civil Rights Act was passed which made segregation illegal and paved the way for the Voting Rights Act and the end of the Jim Crow era.
Have you walked into the Portland Room and wondered about the crumbling leather-bound books behind glass that line the reading room?
These books belonged to William Willis, lawyer, editor, businessman, diarist, Portland mayor, historian…
Willis was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, in 1794. The family moved to Portland in 1803. Willis attended Harvard College, graduating in 1813, and then went on to study law under Prentiss Mellen and Boston Judge Peter O. Thacher. After a few years in Boston and a few years of travel, he returned to Portland to practice law as a partner of Mellen and, later, as a partner of William Pitt Fessenden.
Willis was an inveterate journal-keeper, writing in his diary almost daily from 1840 until 1870, the year of his death. They were not tracked down until 1957 when local historian William B. Jordan, Jr. discovered that they were in the possession of a great-grand-daughter of Willis who graciously allowed the library to take possession of them. (Library patrons can read the journals on microfilm.) In this entry from August 4,1864, Willis writes that he attended “a most loyal union discourse emphatically anti-slavery. Rain in the morning…”
Fragment of Willis’ diary from 1864.
The Portland Public Library also holds Willis’ own personal library. Willis was one of the founders of the Portland Public Library and served as its first president (1867-1870).
Somehow, despite his law practice, his responsibilities in public office and on the boards of various institutions, his nine children, and the keeping of a daily journal, Willis also managed to write history. His The History of Portland from 1632 to 1864 (published 1865) is still widely consulted by historians today.