If you haven’t been to a library in a while, you might have a notion these buildings are noiseless places where stern “shushers” strategically position themselves behind potted plants and columns, waiting to reprimand you should you be tempted to talk, laugh, or even sneeze.
When Rick Speer, Director at the Lewiston Public Library, invited me to visit, he suggested I arrive in the afternoon. He wanted me to see the library at a busy time. I didn’t know what to expect so we agreed I would visit at 4:00 p.m.
I snagged a prime parking spot on Pine Street and made my way upstairs to the reference desk. Rick was waiting, we shook hands, and we talked about my Carnegie Library project. Then, we made a whirlwind trip around all three floors of the library. Rick was right, there was a lot going on and there were lots of patrons “circulating” about the building. In spite of this, it was respectfully quiet and I was glad to learn that for all the changes in libraries since the Carnegie days, “inside voices” were still part of patron etiquette.
I didn’t see one stern “shusher” anywhere on our tour.
There were lots of students in the library, many of them participating in the “Homework Help” program that takes place during the school year in the computer lab with some assistance from Bates College students.
The ArtVan mobile art program was visiting the third floor Children’s Library and there was a full house of young, aspiring artists splashing paint thoughtfully on large sheets of paper. David Moorehead, the Children’s Librarian, outlined all the programs that bring them up to the third floor, including “Kids’ Cooking Club,” “Read to a Dog,” and “French Club,” in addition to Tuesday’s “Story Time.”
I was exhausted just thinking about all the activities in the Children’s Library.
Before we left the third floor, we toured Callahan Hall, the library’s multi-use community space. The former ballroom is used for a number of purposes, including lectures, films, and the occasional “Pages and Pints” book talks organized by Marcela Peres, Adult Services Librarian.
Heading back to the first floor, Rick pointed out the exquisite Marsden Hartley landscape hanging in the lobby. This painting will be loaned to The Metropolitan Museum of Art for a solo exhibition of Hartley’s work beginning in March, 2017.
Other works of art include a Robert Indiana print, one of his “Hartley Elegies” done in homage to Marsden Hartley, and an abstract painting by William Manning.
Art, homework help, books, and movies; Rick was right. There’s a lot going on at the Lewiston Public Library.
As we made our way through the building and passed between the original Carnegie Building and the repurposed Pilsbury Block, I marveled at how the two buildings had been masterfully grafted together without losing the beautiful architectural elements of the past, like the arched Italianate-style windows on the second and third floors and the elaborate projecting cornice trimming the top of the building’s brickwork.
Have you circulated yourself around the Lewiston Public Library lately? It’s marvelous in more ways than one and testifies to the enduring purpose these beautiful architectural wonders provide to the community.
They are beautiful inside and out.
(Special thanks to all the staff and patrons of the library who endured my inquisitive visit!)