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It was a different world…

August 22, 2011

After leaving the interstate in Maine, heading for the coast, we began to see bookstores. There seemed to be at least one little bookstore in every town. It was a comforting sight.

Many had little public libraries, too, although open just a few hours per week. Reading is an important pastime in a Maine winter, which is coming soon judging by the red leaves appearing in trees already.

Blue Hill, Maine, has a busy bookstore and a busy public library, and of course we visited both. Having a friend with access to a key, we saw the underbelly of the lovely old library, where they’d recently installed a pellet furnace for heat.

In the next room was a big hopper full of wood pellets which fed the furnace and which itself was fed from outside, as in the good ol’ days of coal.

Many of the reading rooms and old tables were full of people working on laptops. There was a stunning art show spread around several rooms. Stairways, beautiful trim work, and old wood. Carpentry stands out in Maine.

I don’t know how many times our hostess pointed, “This building used to be over there.” After a while, it seemed obvious that Maine’s carpentry tradition came out of boat building.

The old buildings all seemed to be tight and tidy, and apparently they’re easily moved. There are no eaves to speak of. The typical structure is white with snug, horizontal siding. The next most popular siding must be unpainted cedar shakes.

I’d choose cedar shakes, to escape the constant painting. They weather to a pleasant gray. New ones placed around repairs stand out, but the contrast is pretty. Maine would seem a good place to be a painter or carpenter.

Or artist or writer. I think the winters make for interior work—inside the house and inside oneself. With a big old house, one might make it through the winter. Many old houses merged stepwise into their barns, making one long structure.

Even though my dream house remains a little solar adobe, I could pass a Maine winter in a big rambling house with plenty of windows. There would be a big kitchen, a shop, a studio, and of course a library.

Our friends’ neighbor was building a tree house. There’s something deeply appealing about spending time in a tree. Of course, the carpentry was good and the hardware ship-like.

So, it was a different world. Different plants, different forest, different air and light. But the public library was remarkably familiar. I wonder if the American public library wasn’t one of the first pieces of a national popular culture, spreading coast to coast.

Regardless, we can thank Andrew Carnegie for seeding the growth of a generous, democratic institution familiar to all Americans.

For our local library, here are two reminders. One, this Sunday at 3:00 we’ll have presentations by the artists currently showing at the library, Carol Cartwright and John Vidulich, covering aspects of creativity and technique with PhotoShop.

And two, if you’re in the market for Story Time, know that our new schedule will begin September 7 in the Children’s Room.

Story Times will be Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays the focus will be on children from infants to three years old. Thursdays will focus on three to five year olds.

Anyone is welcome either day, but Story Time will be geared for those ages on those days. See Becky, our children’s librarian, for more information.

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