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PPL at 150: Creating a healthy community

posted: , by Emily Levine
tags: About the Library | Director's Updates | PPL150 | Adults | Teens | Kids & Families | Seniors | Health | News

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.


Now & Then: art exhibit 150 years in the making

posted: , by Sarah Campbell
tags: Director's Updates | Exhibits & Displays | Adults | Seniors | Art & Culture | Portland History

Visit the new art exhibit in our Lewis Gallery, something special for the Library’s 150th anniversary! We are very proud of this show, Now & Then: PPL’s Collection Reconfigured, a side-by-side exhibit of items from the Library’s own art collection and archives next to new pieces created by 11 local artists in response. These artists toured over 150 prints, paintings, sculptures, and historic documents to select their partner piece.

Our theme for this illustrious 150th year is the significance of our past, and our ongoing impact into the shared strength and riches of our community now and into the future. This show includes art that tells how the Portland Public Library was founded just 6 months after the terrible fire that destroyed Portland in 1866, and the Public Library emerged as one of the “greatest wants” in the community, decades before other great cities including New York and Philadelphia had theirs.

Now and Then

Now and Then Art Exhibit

From 19th-century portraits of Portland’s preeminent philanthropists to Victorian Era fashion books, from age worn maps to grand oil paintings of seascapes, the artists of Now & Then have taken a variety of pieces, applied their creative lens, and generated new works that reimagine their historic, artistic, and cultural impact. To make any librarian proud, many of the artists also researched the history and cultural significance of the original pieces to further inspire their work.

Now & Then includes artists Kenny Cole, Ellen Gutekunst, Séan Alonzo Harris, Larry Hayden, Alison Hildreth, Devon Kelley-Yurdin, Mike Marks, Mitchell Rasor, and Julie Poitras Santos. The exhibit posters were designed and printed by Pickwick Press artists Pilar Nadal and Rachel Kobasa.

We are thrilled to display these Library gems which continue to inspire imagination and new stories, as told through the talents of these wonderful artists. Special thanks to our sponsors People’s United Bank for making this exhibit possible. The Now & Then exhibit is on view until July 22, 2017.

Keep an eye out for our other anniversary activities including My Card, My Story for you to tell us your library story right now! #PPL150 #PPLcelebrates


Peaks renovation project: An update on our progress

posted: , by Emily Levine
tags: Director's Updates | Adults | Teens | Kids & Families | Seniors | News

One of our best-loved locations is our Peaks Island Branch, and we are grateful to our partners in the Recreation Department for ways we collaborate in serving the community in both the library and community room spaces.

We want to share an updated timeline for the proposed renovation project so island residents and organizations can make their summer plans.

We now have approval from the State Fire Marshal’s office and have just received authorization from the City’s Planning Department. This means we can finalize the documents to put the project out to bid.

After discussions with City staff who know the bid climate, we have made the decision to proceed with the bid now, with an October 1st start date for construction. This positions us for the best bids and allows us to keep the Library and Community Center open for the summer months. In September, in order to begin pre-work on the site, we will move the Library to the Peaks Island Elementary School location and Recreation to St. Christopher’s Church.

We have received questions from the community about temporary restrooms during the construction. We want to assure everyone that there will be a set of temporary bathrooms during the closed period for islander use. We will have much more information on this as we get closer to the project.

We had hoped to have the approvals to get ahead of a summer start, but it appears that if we bid for an immediate start we are at risk of receiving fewer proposals and unfavorable bid pricing. The new timing will maximize our budget and also allow for easier construction logistics on the island outside of the heaviest tourist time.

Thank you for your constant support as we keep this exciting project moving forward. If you have questions about the Library’s plans, please do not hesitate to be in touch via email or by phone at 207-871-1700 ext. 755.

– Sarah Campbell, Executive Director, Portland Public Library

-Sally Deluca, Director of Facilities & Recreation, City of Portland

 

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