We are happy to share a few photos and updates about the Peaks Island Library and Community Center building project.
Now that the demolition phase is fairly complete, we have biweekly walk-through meetings with our contractor. Great progress is being made! Attending these progress checks are Aaron Bourassa, Karen James and Matt Schweier of Great Falls Construction (GFC), Dick Reed, Reed & Co. Architecture, George Cooper from PPL, and David Onos from the City of Portland. Arthur Fink attends as well to photograph the site for our archives. Thank you, Art!
As islanders have seen, GFC removed the wall on the Sterling Street side giving us a glimpse into the expansion of the floor plan. Temporary walls are now up until the structural beam goes in place. And new concrete will be poured shortly. We are still on a good path to reopen before the Summer. (Arthur Fink photos)
NEW VISION CAMPAIGN: It’s not too late to join the New Vision Campaign to help pay for new furnishings. We are thrilled to announce that we received grant support from both the Davis Family Foundation and the Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust to buoy the wonderful gifts from over 350 Peaks households and friends. We are so grateful for the generosity of the Kennedy-Carter family for whom the building will be named. For those interested in participating, please make gifts to Portland Public Library and note “New Vision Campaign” in the memo line of your check.
We continue to look forward to seeing you in the Library’s temporary home in the Peaks Island Elementary School (around the back, up the ramp).
George Cooper visited branch staff Priscilla Webster and Rose Ann Walsh, with islanders Jon and Angie Kelso at the PIES temporary location. (George Cooper photo)
This afternoon, the FCC approved their Restoring Internet Freedom Order, overturning the Open Internet Order that established net neutrality protections within the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2015. PPL and the library field are strongly opposed to this decision.
Libraries rarely advocate on legal or regulatory actions, holding to our commitment to educate and inform rather than take sides. However, net neutrality principles are a core library value. Public libraries take seriously our mission to provide free and equitable information access to all members of the public as they seek to become more informed citizens and to improve the quality of their lives. Libraries strongly assert that equity of access to online information and services is critical to a healthy democracy.
As others have voiced, our concerns about the Restoring Internet Freedom Order center on whether internet service providers (ISPs) could control what and how internet content travels on their networks. This would make certain resources unavailable or slower to access for those who do not or cannot pay, and has the potential to infringe upon new online content from competitive entrepreneurs and creators looking to enter the market.
Public libraries like PPL are committed to bridge the digital divide – the social and economic inequality of access to the internet – by providing broadband, computers, and training for free and open use to our patrons, many of whom rely on the Library as a primary web access point. We are therefore extremely concerned that, without net neutrality rules in place, such access will be substantially unprotected.
Inequity of access to content could also compromise our ability to provide the breadth of information needed to serve people with diverse needs and perspectives, as we do at all of our branches and online.
PPL joins our library colleagues around the country to stand with internet founders, content providers, business people, and many millions of others in asserting that net neutrality principles must be the standard held in our society, and rules must apply to reinforce their value. We are fortunate in Maine that Senators Collins and King, and Representative Pingree made clear statements prior to the FCC’s vote in favor of preserving the Open Internet Order.
At this point, there are two ways that you can engage in the future of net neutrality. First, keep yourself informed about the issues and actions taken (see PPL’s recommended resources). Second, as an informed consumer, participate in the discussion as it moves forward and learn more about your own internet access and speed.
You can count on PPL to continue to provide complete and balanced information, to be forward-looking, and to actively defend your freedom to information access and expression.
Throughout 2017, some of our partners will share their perspective on PPL in honor of our 150th anniversary celebration.
Today’s contributor is Sam Zager, MD, a family physician at Martin’s Point in Portland and a weekly volunteer in a Greater Portland Health high school-based clinic. In addition to his medical credentials, he has a master’s degree in Economic and Social History. He is currently reading Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton.
Sam Zager, MD
It is a privilege to join the celebration of Portland Public Library’s 150th anniversary!
Back in 1867, in the rebuilding time following the Great Fire, the city’s vision for the future featured a top-notch library; and we are the fortunate heirs. With excellent stewardship, PPL to this day offers lifetimes-worth of tangible texts, recordings, and images; it also is a point of access for digital information; it is a physical space for community meetings; it holds a wealth of Portland’s historical archives; it hosts English-language education for new Mainers; it serves as a venue for the arts; and it provides safe spaces for children, adolescents, and adults to seek truth, delight their sensibilities, and nourish their spirit. Plus, it does this all at no cost to patrons. Portland’s post-Civil War leaders intuitively understood that a public library is a core institution of a noteworthy community. I wonder, though, if they fully appreciated all that Portland Public Library could offer to the physical and emotional health of our city and its inhabitants.
The idea that public libraries matter for health is relatively new, and has roots in New England. In response to a proposal to close several public library branches in Boston in 2010, leaders came together from the city’s five medical schools, graduate schools in public policy and public health, several major hospitals, and primary and specialty care practices. One of these signatories had received the Nobel Peace Prize, and another had received the National Medal of Science. A joint statement by such a diverse group regarding a city-level proposal is quite rare. This panel of experts asserted for the first time in history that public libraries benefit individual and public health, and that closing libraries could contribute to illness or premature death.
How can public libraries matter for health? They cited two ways. First, public libraries are integral to education and literacy, both of which correlate with good health. Second, public libraries can enhance the social fabric of a community, which in turn, improves health outcomes. They based their statement on many peer-reviewed research articles from the medical, public health, and social science literature.
Between 2013 and 2015, our own public library system helped advance what the world knows about the intersection of public libraries and health. PPL collaborated in the world’s first direct and quantified study of health and public libraries. The Health and Libraries of Public Use Retrospective Study (HeLPURS), was published last year for an international audience in Health Information & Libraries Journal. HeLPURS documented for the first time a strong association between public library use and tobacco cessation. Smoking patrons who used their library cards at least a moderate amount, or within the previous six months, had over two-times higher odds of quitting smoking. There were similar findings for illicit drug use. These findings regarding substance abuse are highly pertinent in Maine, one of the most opioid-affected states in America. HeLPURS augmented the 2010 expert statement by adding evidence that public libraries may contribute to health far beyond their conventional role as gateways for health information.
As PPL looks ahead at the next 150 years, technology will change, but the fundamental biologic and social ingredients of health likely will remain the same. In recent years, we have started to demonstrate the role public libraries as institutions play in health. Further work could validate these preliminary findings and elaborate the details. Even at this early point, though, it seems that the safe, respectful, non-judgmental, and stimulating environment of a professionally staffed and well-resourced public library contributes to a healthy mind and body.