Thursday, July 25, 2013

Way North of Miami

If you are involved in the public sector and participate in the winter/spring budget season then you feel as though you have come through a storm that takes a long time to pass.  The fact is that we are all involved because people pay taxes using their hard earned income and leaders make decisions to support public endeavors like PPL.  In return, the Library commits itself to a full effort every day to make Portland a better place by opening the doors – for every resident regardless of age - to lifelong learning in so many ways.  But even if the Library is successful, leadership from the City needs to possess a basic value system that sees the work of the Library as an essential part of a great City. There have to be leaders who see broadly the landscape of education and can see down the road.

Recently the Mayor of Miami, Carlos Gimenez, stated “the age of the library is probably ending” as a justification for closing 22 branches of the library system.   The comment prompted a blog posting by Thea Montanez, President of the Hartford Public Library, that gets to the heart of the matter.  We at PPL do not take the financial support of our community for granted.  Over the past five years there have been significant challenges to urban library systems such as Portland’s.  The leadership of this City, despite the financial stress experienced by all of us, has believed in this Library and its unlimited potential to change lives and to be a major partner in building a great City.

We are thankful for the great and farsighted leadership in this City that holds the values and vision to see the exact opposite of Mayor Gimenez’s world view.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Quiet and More

I spent last Friday in Augusta at the Maine Humanities Summit sponsored by the University of Maine Humanities Initiative.  I also participated on a panel of academic and public librarians to explain the role of libraries in the “public” humanities.  The attending group was made up of the converted, those of us who see in others and experience in ourselves every day the “Power & Pleasure of Ideas” - to borrow a phrase from the Maine Humanities Council.  We spoke of public libraries being a provider, presenter, collector, promoter and organizer of the humanities.  So it was on fertile ground (and with gratitude) that our individual presentations were received.  There was little if any surprise just appreciation.

I am always fascinated by the surprise that folks have upon rediscovery of the public library or coming up against the popular notion that the public library is not long for the world.  Paul Krugman’s recent New York Times blog post “In Praise of Public Libraries (Personal and Trivial)” speaks to the simple delight in finding a space in the community that has some infrastructure, a culture of sharing and no expectation of you except civil behavior.  Meanwhile, beyond offering a sweet spot in the daily grind, public libraries everywhere are gearing up their summer reading programs and reaching out to kids and families to do what we can to bring the beauty of the arts and the humanities (literature, history, art, music and much more) to the neighborhoods and towns across the country.  Quiet magic – day in and day out.  No chest pounding, no vapid self-promotion, just quiet and sustained effort to experience the “Power and Pleasure of Ideas”.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

About Libraries

The variety and range of libraries and the issues that are part of their daily and strategic concerns are not always obvious to the general public.  There is not a shortage of coverage of specific issues facing libraries such as e-books, funding, etc. and occasionally there is a more general survey about the future of libraries or how they are evolving.  For national audiences, the May 14th Wall Street Journal article, “The Library’s Future Is Not an Open Book” does a fine job giving a sense of the challenges and rationale that urban libraries face nationwide and how it is being addressed through planning and architecture.  One will see echoes and demonstrations of PPL in that piece.

For Mainers seeking to understand our statewide library landscape the newest issue of the Maine Policy Review offers a wonderful blend of comment on the history, philosophy, service and strategic challenges associated with Maine’s libraries.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Derivative Can Be a Good Word

Derivative tends not be a compliment as it implies lack of creativity or more recently a bad financial instrument. But let’s be honest, many great ideas in all areas aren't new (like bookmobiles) and libraries mostly work with the basics of those ideas and spin them to serve some niche.  PPL like other libraries lends a variety of unexpected materials including telescopes (brought to us through our partnership with Cornerstones of Science), Kill a Watt energy detectors (given to us by a private donor),and most recently ukuleles modeled on the idea first demonstrated  by the Newport (Maine) Cultural Center and neighboring Falmouth (Maine) Memorial Library.  
Even Isaac Newton acknowledged the contributions to his work of those before him. It is a pleasure (and an ethical obligation) for us to acknowledge this tradition of public libraries.

Friday, March 15, 2013

READ With …….

Start with your kids and then each other and then with yourself!  PPL is grateful to be among the founding partners of the newly formed ConnectEd effort in Portland.  We plan to have a major impact in the effort to increase Pre-K reading in Portland. We won’t be in it alone as we will be working with terrific partners like the United Way, Portland Schools and other organizations.  But it will take passionate individuals as well who believe deeply that reading is the greatest gift that parents, schools, libraries and society as a whole can bestow on any one individual.

There will be many ways to reach children, families and individuals in the City.  Our commitment is to utilize everything in our power -  our staff, volunteers, deposit collections, branches and our new bookmobile  - to infect this City with a reading bug.  The bookmobile funding plan, design and service strategy has been three years in the making.  It arrived today after a 4 day cross country drive from Las Vegas looking like an old friend who is ready to lend a hand.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A more interactive PPL

The digital presence of PPL is one of the three “environments”, along with our physical facilities and soon to come bookmobile, which we need to master.  Each environment has its own unique set of dynamics and user experiences.  It is no secret that our current website is …. Well, to find the right word … packed.  It is hard to navigate and, although there are plenty of great resources on the site, it doesn’t do a good job helping us serve our many different users.

In the next two months, we will be finishing some projects that have been months in the making which will radically change our digital profile and how we will relate to our users.  Several new platforms will be unveiled that will make it easier for us to connect with our users, expand library collections and make it easier to find information.  In June our new website will be rolled out.  We have been working with VONT, a local web marketing firm, for over a year to integrate social media, such as Facebook, more effectively within our site and to incorporate new tools, such as BiblioCommons.
BiblioCommons will provide a new library catalog experience, allowing users and staff to share lists of items and provide much better access to our collections.  Finally this spring our digital collections will begin to utilize the Digital Commons platform.  You will be able to use search engines to explore collections such as Maine News Index, Children’s Theater of Maine, Portland Press Herald Still Film Negatives, Maine Jewish Oral History Projects, Casco Bay Weekly and many more.

We are very grateful to the Sam L. Cohen Foundation for their support toward these projects.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Coming to You On All Kinds of Roads

In the spring of 2010, the Library publicly put forth its Portable Library concept.  The effort included a number of elements but the basic idea was to transcend the physical locations of the library by going to where the people are working, living and recreating.  The Portable Library Team includes, among other things, deposit collections at places like the METRO waiting room on Elm Street, coffee houses and a bookmobile. 

The bookmobile, funded in part by support from Key Bank, will arrive in Portland sometime next week and will be on the road in April.  It will bring books, programs, internet access, training and the ability to sign up for a library card to locations throughout Portland.  Many folks have fond memories as children of PPL’s full scale bookmobile from 1972 to 1994.  

Here’s to a new set of memories and a lot of fun!