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Karate for Teens at the Library

posted: , by Dave Kiersh
tags: About the Library | Teens | Art & Culture

By Dave Kiersh, Teen Librarian

I took off my shoes and lined up with a group of ten Portland teens and faced instructors Kimonee and Kianna. “This is a black-belt school,” we chanted in unison. Kianna and Kimonee, two black-belt trained instructors, approached teaching teens self-defense at the library with both a seriousness and a passion for their discipline. The focus was not only on self-defense but also on self-respect. The program attracted a range of library users. Some of the teens were familiar faces to me and others I had never seen before. The first session started out as all boys, but by session four, a third of the participants were female.

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Each class started with a series of exercises that involved pushups, sit-ups and jumping jacks. Once our hearts were thumping, we were ready to learn new techniques. Kianna and Kimonee demonstrated their skills against each other, demonstrating what to do when faced with an assailant. Fighting was a last resort and the focus was on how to thwart a predator and to learn confidence in leaving safely from a dangerous situation. It got even more interesting when they brought in props such as (fake) knives and guns. Some teens laughed and others were more serious in mastering the skills to defend themselves as they practiced amongst each other and played the roles of mugger and victim.

Since starting work as the Teen Librarian for the Portland Public Library, I had wanted to do a program that involved something physical. I had two reasons for this. One is that beyond the power of books, the library has enormous potential as a social community place for teenagers. Many of our teen patrons have a common interest in soccer. They communicate and enjoy the company of their friends while playing FIFA Soccer on the library’s XBOX. I wanted to get them away from the TV for a moment so that they could learn something new. I also wanted to offer an activity that was social, but also civil. Such a program would teach ideas of self-respect and empowerment in a way that was fun and not too didactic.

The second reason is that I believe that the library is a great place for self-education. It is a place for teens to try new things, whether it is reading a work of fiction or being introduced to something that might not be offered to them in school. Just as I do not expect someone who checks out a novel to become an author, I do not have the expectation that someone who attends a library program will become an expert in whatever subject the class or activity is based around. Either way, it is an introduction and a jumping off point to get teens excited. The library’s strength is that it can foster a love for self-education, something that should continue for lifelong learners inside or outside of a classroom.

Karate seemed ideal for our library space. No special equipment was needed and teens did not need to come with any prior knowledge. On the other hand, the idea of karate was not a completely foreign one to them, even if they had never tried it. Most teens are familiar with karate whether it is through watching movies, reading manga or learning about it through books. I was lucky enough to find two great instructors willing to help out. Initially I contacted Kianna, a woman in her early twenties, and she suggested that she co-teach the program with her teenage sister Kimonee. Great! The teens responded well to the youthful energy these two radiated. I believe that some teens left the program learning something new. And for those who didn’t, they still had fun and are more likely to visit the library again. Either way, this program was a success and definitely something I’d be happy to offer again.

 


Welcoming : Energizing Community Connections

posted: , by Sonya Durney
tags: Adults | Art & Culture | Government

Welcoming :  Energizing Community Connections

Portland Public Library  5 Monument Square, Rines Auditorium

December 4th 4-6pm, with a reception to follow

Free and open to the public!

wordcloud-welcome-heart-1

What does it mean to welcome others in?

What does it feel like to feel truly welcome?

What’s the difference between personal efforts towards welcoming and institutional ones?

How might public spaces become more welcoming?

How does a shared commitment to civility help us sustain welcome public places?

How does welcoming fit into a community wide vision of civility?

These are some of the questions we will explore in our World Cafe-style (interactive and facilitated) conversation about Welcoming as a civic value.

This event occurs as part of our larger Choose Civility Initiative, supported by the Lerner Foundation, and developed in partnership with the Institute for Civic Leadership and the Maine Humanities Council.

An opportunity for action planning and a reception will follow the facilitated event.  RSVPs encouraged but not required and this event is fully free and open to the public.  The conversation will be enriched by broad participation — please come and bring a friend – all are truly welcome!

The conversation will continue, with a screening of Rain in a Dry Land on December 5th (7:30pm at PPL, free and open to the public, in coordination with Catholic Charities) and  with a special coordinated Portland Playback on the theme of Welcoming taking place on Friday December 6th (CTN5, 516 Congress Street, Portland, Maine $7).


Buried Musical Treasures from the PPL Archives

posted: , by Sarah Campbell
tags: Exhibits & Displays | Library Collections | Adults | Teens | Kids & Families | Seniors | Art & Culture | Portland History

When not being used in the Lewis Gallery, our nineteenth-century vitrines (glass display cases) are hosting displays from our collection in the Main Library Lower Level – Information Desk area.  Our first display, on view now through November, is a selection of sheet music from the Portland Room Archives.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century musical life revolved around the family piano, and sheet music was provided for home performing mostly from publishers in New York’s Tin Pan Alley.  But most large cities had their own small music publishers (who were usually instrument and sheet music sellers) and many songwriters would publish with local firms or simply publish their own works.

Portland could boast several such publishers, including the Paine family, whose most distinguished member, John Knowles Paine, was Harvard’s first Professor of Music. J.K.’s father Jacob and uncle William sold instruments and music at 113 Middle Street. The Paines published many of the compositions of Hermann Kotzschmar, the leading Portland musician of the period.  Cressey and Allen had a music shop at 566 Congress Street; Cressey was also a composer and published many of his own pieces.

Many of the compositions featured in our exhibit were on local subjects: dance pieces named for Portland landmarks: the Forest City Polka, the Diamond Cove Waltz, and others in that vein.  Others were hymns to local pride: Somewhere in Maine, Down in Maine.  Patriotic compositions were standbys of the home music collection, and we have several from the Civil War to World War II.

We’ve included two items published “away”.  The first, Kathleen Mavourneen, was a sentimental pseudo-Irish ballad popularized by tenor John McCormick.  It was written by Frederick Nicholls Crouch, an English musician who lived and taught in Portland until his secessionist leanings made him unpopular in 1861; he joined a Virginia regiment as a trumpeter.  The other New York publication is perhaps the most familiar college song of the 1920s, Rudy Vallee’s Maine Stein Song.

We hope that local music lovers, local history buffs, and everybody else will stop by the lower level and see this exhibit!

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