Our library is a treasure
As you drive into Boothbay Harbor to marvel at the glittering Christmas lights, one building stands out.
It is our wonderful Memorial Library.
Now, it is decorated with spectacular cascading lights and glowing trees.
But, our library is more than a backdrop for a seasonal light show. In many ways, it is the center of our community.
In the winter, the exterior is a glittering wonder. In summer, it becomes a municipal park where crafters show their wares, children race and chase, and community bands entertain visitors.
Like the TV commercials like to say: “But, wait, there’s more.”
Inside the doors, the graceful structure is not your grandfather’s library, filled with dusty books and a stern woman who greets giggling children with a loud “Shhh.”
Joanna Breen, the executive director, describes it this way.
“This beautiful place is really special. It is a community space that brings people together. A place where they can learn together. A quiet place where people can go and feel safe. It is a great equalizer. We are not here to judge or teach. No matter if you are wealthy or poor the only thing that matters to us is: how can we help you.”
Desiree Scorcia, the assistant director who grew up in the library, puts it another way. “We are concierges of knowledge.”
Just as our schools moved from the Palmer Method and flashcards to iPads, the role of the library evolved from imposing card catalogs and endless mazes of dark shelving. But, in many ways, it is the same.
“Older librarians helped you find what you were looking for. We do the same thing, but in different ways,” said Breen.
At our library, you can find the latest complex read from East Boothbay’s best-selling author, Richard Ford, classic works of biography and history, to the weighty volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary.
When asked if the public responds to their approach, Breen and Scoria looked at each other and smiled.
A quick trip to the circulation desk revealed a flyer bragging that this year 27,000 plus visitors borrowed more than 28,000 items. They also put on 217 free programs, hosted 41 authors and 350 readers at a summer Book Fair at the Railway Museum (in conjunction with Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shops).
In the summer, tourists marvel at the library’s wonderful used bookstore carefully tended by volunteers.
A few weeks ago, as we all sat in the dark after Mother Nature pulled the plug on our electrical system, our library provided many with a warm place to gather, read a book, and log on to the library’s internet connection to assure relatives “from away,” we were not frozen to death in front of a blank TV screen.
Our library is more than a place to borrow the latest best seller. If you are going on a long road trip, you can borrow an audiobook to make the journey a bit less tedious. If someone is looking for a volume in Braille, they just have to ask.
Want to look at the stars or the “big moon?” Just check out the library’s telescope. Want to check out your appliances to see how much electricity you are using? Just ask a librarian.
Going skiing? Borrow a GoPro and a selfie-stick to memorialize your broken leg. Want an electronic read? Just ask.
Our library has always been a special place for small children, where each Friday morning, a smiling lady will introduce them to new friends like “Winnie the Pooh.”
If little Sally wants to make a special ornament for grandma’s Christmas tree, all she has to do is ask. A 3-D printer will make it happen.
After Christmas, the library ladies will be glad to show old-timers, like me, how to work their new electronic toys.
If a patron is looking for a juicy mystery, Breen might suggest Louise Penny’s thrillers set in Quebec and peppered with snippets of French-Canadian culture or Paul Doiron’s take on a game warden wading through contemporary tales in the Maine woods.
Scorcia, a scientist who favors deeper eclectic reads, might suggest works by Malcolm Gladwell that include a collection of essays ranging from dogs to TV pitchmen to ketchup. Or, maybe, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz’s take on Google, “Everybody Lies.” Different reads for different folks
In the coming season, mystery fans will find the library, in connection with the Maine Humanities Council, hosting a special book club titled “Refreshing the Whodunit,” a deep look at five contemporary mystery novels.
See, our library is more than glittering lights and craft shows.
“Libraries just bring people together,” said Breen.
“It is sort of like: If you build it they will come. If you put out a chair, someone will sit in it.”
“Our library is a caring place.”
Merry Christmas to all.