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Portland Room’s Children’s Collection

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.


posted: , by Gabrielle
tags: Adults | Portland History
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