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Life of the Library

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New Report : Volunteering & Civic Engagement 2012

posted: , by Kim Simmons
tags: Programs & Events | Adults | Careers & Jobs | Government

The Corporation for National and Community Service has released a report on the state of volunteerism in the USA and the States in 2012. Overall, Maine is doing great, ranking 14th in the Country.  However, we have some places where we could improve and the Choose Civility Initiative hopes to encourage even more participation in coming years!

A few highlights:

In 2012, one in four adults (26.5 percent) volunteered through an organization, demonstrating that volunteering remains an important activity for millions of Americans. In Maine, 32.5% of residents volunteer, combining into a total 43.8 million hours of service!  And, more than 1/2 of Mainer’s report contributing financially to charities of some kind.  If this moves you to consider volunteering in 2014, check out Volunteer Maine to learn about opportunities around our State.

While Maine reports very high voter-turn-out, only 9.9% of volunteerism is within a civic realm, and  18.8% of residents report participating in public meetings –what could we do to encourage greater participation in our civic life?  Please share your ideas in the comments section!

Portland Room’s Children’s Collection

posted: , by Gabrielle Daniello
tags: Adults | Portland History

Among the treasures of the Library’s Portland Room is the Children’s Collection. These antique children’s books were part of the circulating collection of the Portland Public Library when the library was in the Baxter Building, but now, because of their age and fragility, are kept behind glass in the Portland Room.

Image of Baxter Building, ca. 1890

Baxter building, ca. 1890

Portland Public Library Annual Reports provide glimpses into the reading habits and preferences of an earlier era. In 1897, the library opened the Young People’s Reading Room. In 1899, the Librarian wrote that “while the unruly element has not been altogether lacking, the children have as a rule been well behaved…” Among the books the young patrons may have looked at are these:

Image of the cover of The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers

The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers


Image of the cover of Nos Enfants

Nos Enfants

In 1935, the Library’s Young People’s Room asked children to vote for their favorite books. The five that ranked highest were: Little Women, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, Secret Garden, and Black Beauty.

In 1940, children and their caregivers increasingly requested stories which had been made into films, such as Pinocchio and Swiss Family Robinson. Adult reading habits were changing, too. Librarians found that adult patrons, concerned about the war, were reading less fiction, while books on such topics as aviation, diesel engines, and radio were in high demand.

When the library moved to its new quarters at 5 Monument Square in 1979, the older children’s books – by then, many of them genuine antiques — were taken out of circulation and put in the Portland Room for safe keeping. This is where you will find them today. With their beautiful bindings and lively cover art, they are a pleasure to browse. We invite you to stop by the Portland Room and take a look.

The Portland Room is open Monday through Thursday from 10-7 and Friday from 10-6.


Welcoming : Energizing Community

posted: , by Sonya Durney
tags: Adults | Seniors | Government

On December 4th, Portland Public Library’s Choose Civility Initiative hosted a public forum on the topic of Welcoming : Energizing Community. Organized as a World Cafe conversation, facilitators from Institute for Civic Leadership walked the almost 50 participants through three sets of questions, with the purpose of helping to share many perspectives while deepening the conversation.

The three questions asked:

1) On a scale of 1-10, how welcoming do you find Portland and why?

2) How does your rating shape your community engagement?

3) If we envision a Most Welcoming city, what might we highlight and what might we change?

If you have answers to these questions, please leave comment below or send them to simmons@portland.lib.me.us

Themes from the break-out session are inspiring and encourage more conversations about how we move to action!

People seek more opportunities to connect with others… and especially strangers who might share a new way of thinking about the common good. Participants agreed that Portland offers significant opportunities to be among people but deeper interactions can feel awkward or discouraged.

Welcoming is an active practice… a truly welcoming community does more than invite people to the table, it encourages a cultural literacy among all members of the community, institutionalizes best practices for encouraging the greatest level of public participation and
enhances shared public space where interaction is normal, easy, supported and encouraged.

A shared vision for a common good needs to be articulated… we likely share more in common than we might realize, but many experience incivility as an effort to separate us and emphasize our differences.

Civility in the Political Process is Important… Our political discourse should be friendly, welcoming and respectful of dissent and agreement.

Choose Civility Portland aims to build momentum on these suggestions by hosting public conversations on important community topics, skill building workshops for engaging in Democracy, and by maintaining and amplifying our commitment to the Library as a space where interaction and integration occur.

Choose Civility Portland recent press:

Check back frequently for program updates!


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