Life of the Library » Programs & Events

What’s new?

Choose Civility Honors MLK Jr Day

posted: , by Kim Simmons
tags: Programs & Events | Adults | Teens | Seniors | Government | Portland History

Martin Luther King Jr day inspires curiosity in myriad directions.  Dr. King was a prolific writer and thinker and leader, offering many pathways to follow.  In recent years, MLK Jr day has been claimed as a “Day of Service,” inviting us to give our attention to our communities in whatever ways we can.  King’s work for social justice was premised on the ideals of nonviolence, inclusion, and freedom. At times, these values can jostle with each other, can need our attention in different ways as we seek to create and sustain communities which embody the full vision of King and others who led the Civil Rights Movement.

The Choose Civility initiative invites you to consider your most sacred values, your deepest wishes for your community, and your commitment to enact social justice when and where you can.   On Saturday January 24th, we will host our 3rd and final (for this season) “Portland Public Conversation” on the topic Picturing Portland.

We hope that you will make time to join us in this “design-thinking” inspired session which will help us consider how we take our best ideas and bring them to fruition. This will be a highly interactive session!

Although registration is not required, we would love a sense of #s for planning our lunch menu, so please do RSVP if possible, just by sending a quick email to or “join” via facebook.
Here’s a sense of how our time will be spent:
10:00 am Library opens, we will have coffee, treats, and books to peruse
10:30 am Welcome, ice breaker, a bit of information about what we’ve learned from our Choose Civility programs thus far
11:00am The “Head-Heart-Hustle,” facilitated by special guest Sara Shifrin from Gould Academy’s IDEAS center, is designed to help us understand our own commitments, passions and capacity to contribute and to find themes among us that help us consider where we might best “Choose Civility” in 2015
12:00 pm Final thoughts & an invitation to continue participating in Action Groups supported by Lift360
12:30 pm Closing … Lunch will be offered after the formal closing of the program and will allow for more conversation and forming of action groups
We also invite you to browse the Choose Civility collection as well as the wonderful books and films that honor Dr. King’s life, that explore the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s & 60s or that engage us in questions about the status of Civil Rights today.



Reflections on Civility

posted: , by Kim Simmons
tags: Programs & Events | Recommended Reads | Adults | Teens | Seniors | Government


Over the last 18 months, the Choose Civility Initiative, in concert with many community partners (see partial list below) has explored a central query — what does civility mean when the goal is to increase civic engagement and participation among all members of a community?

Maine Humanities Council
League of Women Voters
Elders for Future Generations
West End Neighborhood Association
USM Economics Department
Coalition on the Commemoration of the 1964 Civil Rights Act
ACLU of Maine


Collective definitions of civility have almost always begun with the concept of “respect” — respect for differing points of view, differing identities, differing ways of being in the world.  This conversation often begs for deeper listening – our individual experiences of  “respect” can differ and a central tenant of diversity and social justice education is the recognition that intention and impact can differ.

Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot’s seminal work on interrogating the lived experience of respect is a wonderful opening for deeper thinking about the ideal.


Peeling back “respect” often opens us to the value of curiosity.  The practice of civility and civic engagement depend on some element of shared learning among members of a community.  The Choose Civility Initiative quickly found that participants have a deep and abiding interest in sustained conversation – that the opportunity to learn from “experts” and from each other are equally important.  Curiousity leads to increased empathy and the strengthening  of the skill of “listening for understanding.”   Our Choose Civility collection of 125 titles explores many topics and and our programming emphasizes opportunities for conversation among attendees.


Photo Credit : Sarah Davis Ground Rules Generated “Creating Communities We Wish To Live In” December 2014

In some times and places, a call for “civility” can be understood as code for a call to “quiet down,”  to suppress controversial ideas or dissent.   Portland Public Library embraces a much more rich and inclusive meaning of civility – civility is the value that allows full exploration of ideas, popular and unpopular; civility creates a climate where dissent can be expressed without fear of retaliation or violence; civility allows opportunities for clear and fair access to information that shapes the policy decisions that effect us all.   As our larger community engages in debate and discussion about our values, we are Choosing Civility. As we share our own understanding of the word and listen hard to the stories of others, we are Choosing Civility.   As we give of ourselves, as we advocate, as we serve, as we learn, as we appreciate our community, we Choose Civility.

We are grateful to the hundreds of individuals who participated in Choose Civility programming over the last 18 months and we look forward to continuing these conversations in 2015!



Picturing Portland : Portland Public Conversation #3 – Dec 9th (7:30 am coffee / 8:00 am start)

posted: , by Kim Simmons
tags: Programs & Events | Adults | Teens | Seniors | Government | Portland History

EVENT POSTPONED DUE TO WEATHER, new date will be announced at a later time. Our apologies for any inconvenience.

The Library’s Choose Civility Initiative began with the premise that we ALL share an interest in creating, maintaining and engaging in shared spaces and shared conversations about our broader community.   We have engaged in all kinds of conversations over the last 18 months, some directly reflecting on the idea of civility and some giving us the chance to practice civility while discussing more controversial topics.

As our grant from the Lerner Foundation  comes to an end, we will consider various strategies for maintaining Choose Civility programming at the Library. We welcome your feedback about the kinds of programs you like best — send us an email or look for a survey soon!

We are delighted to share the news that  Lift360, one of our grant partners, will take leadership on a next phase of the initiative – organizing task forces to implement  civic action.

More than anything, though, we invite you to attend our final “Portland Public Conversation”  on December 9th at 8:00am (coffee begins at 7:30) to explore these queries in person:  what is the status of “civility” in Portland? How might we strengthen our community through individual and organizational practices?  Join us for “Picturing Portland” and share your insights and ideas!!!

Below are some of the programs we offered through this grant. What did you attend? What did you like best? What would you like to see more of? 

  • Civic Action in Portland :  A Community Conversation
  • Incivility Fatigue with Professor Dan Shea
  • Welcoming :  Creating More Welcoming Communities,  a World Cafe conversation
  • Welcoming :  Posters for Citizenship Ceremony with “I’m Your Neighbor”
  • Constitution USA :  A Film Screening
  • Capital in the 21st Century Book Discussion // Inequality for All Film Discussion
  • The Guilty Pleasure of Erotica :  a facilitated conversation
  • Facilitation Workshop offered by Anne Schink of the League of Women Voters
  • “Creating the Communities We Wish For” with Maine Humanities Council
  • Active Hope : A Book Discussion
  • Civic Writing :  Workshops on writing letters to the editor, op-eds, blog posts, tweets and more
  • Civic Education and New Mainers – Addressing the Gaps — a community conversation convened in partnership with LWV
  • Muslim Journeys – a film series in partnership with Maine Humanities Council
  • Celebrating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – coalition programming
  • Portland Public Conversation Series : Portland’s People, Participating in Portland and Picturing Portland
View Posts by Date:
Filter Posts:
Connect with the Library: