Tonight at 7:00pm Portland Public Library launches our new website.  PPL has worked on this site diligently for over a year to make sure it’s user friendly for our patrons, easy to understand, and most importantly puts the information and resources you are looking for right at your fingertips!  On the site you will find access to eBooks, be able to glance our new titles, create personalized reading lists and share them and find out what events are coming up at PPL through customizable calendars! 


Now, more than ever we hope you will take advantage of all of resources that PPL can provide!  Weather it’s a new book or an online database you are seeking…the new website will make your quest for information easier and more enjoyable!

Finalists for this year’s National Book Awards have been announced. For the first time, the National Book Foundation has offered a free e-book series with samples of all the finalists’ work available for download. Samples of the finalists’ work will be included in the free e-book series, “The Contenders: Excerpts from the 2013 National Book Award Finalists.” It is available for download from the National Book Award website. The free e-book offer is part of a 2013 effort by the National Book Foundation to raise the profile of the awards and enhance discussion of the books in competition.

The five finalists in each category were narrowed down from a previously announced 10-title longlist. The fiction finalists are:
Rachel Kushner for “The Flamethrowers”
Jhumpa Lahiri for “The Lowland”
James McBride for “The Good Lord Bird”
Thomas Pynchon for “Bleeding Edge”
George Saunders for “Tenth of December”

The finalists in nonfiction are:
Jill Lepore for “Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin”
Wendy Lower for “Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields”
George Packer for “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America”
Alan Taylor for “The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832”
Lawrence Wright for “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief”

The five poetry finalists are:
Frank Bidart for “Metaphysical Dog”
Lucie Brock-Broido for “Stay, Illusion”
Adrian Matejka for “The Big Smoke”
Matt Rasmussen for “Black Aperture”
Mary Szybist for “Incarnadine”

The finalists in young people’s literature are:
Kathi Appelt for “The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp”
Cynthia Kadohata for “The Thing About Luck”
Tom McNeal for “Far Far Away
Meg Rosoff for “Picture Me Gone”
Gene Luen Yang for “Boxers & Saints”

Each National Book Award winner will get $10,000; the awards are to be presented Nov. 20 at a gala in New York. The library has or has ordered all finalists in the fiction, nonfiction, and poetry categories.

The Booker, Prize, Britain’s most prestigious literary prize, is awarded annually for a work of fiction by a novelist from Britain, Ireland or a Commonwealth country. The winner receives £50,000, or about $80,000.

On Tuesday this year’s winner was announced to  be Eleanor Catton for “The Luminaries,” an epic, 848-page tale set in 19th-century New Zealand.

The other nominees were “We Need New Names,” by NoViolet Bulawayo, a debut novel about a 10-year-old girl who journeys from Zimbabwe to the United States; “Harvest,” by Jim Crace, a dark, vividly drawn novel about the inhabitants of a small village; “A Tale for the Time Being,” by Ruth Ozeki, about a discovered diary that links people in distant cities; “The Lowland,” by Jhumpa Lahiri, about brothers living in post-colonial India; and “The Testament of Mary,” by Colm Toibin, a slim, 81-page portrait of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

According to an article in today’s New York Times, this year’s ceremony was especially momentous because “it was the last year before the award is opened up to entries from the United States and beyond.

In September, the Booker Prize Foundation announced that in 2014, the prize would be open to all novels written in English and published in Britain, no matter the nationality of the author. That decision prompted hand-wringing from many in the literary world in Britain, who worried that the reconceived Booker would be limited in its potential to discover and anoint new and unknown authors.”

Letters to the Editor (LTE) provide a time-honored space for a sharing of public opinion that reflects the views of ordinary citizens.  They are used to raise questions about a current news story or to challenge a particular framing of an issue or to contribute a new point of view.  LTEs allow a sharing of thought beyond one’s own circle and thus contributes to civic discourse in a meaningful way.  Yet few of us manage to write, edit and publish LTE’s or other opinion pieces.  Sometimes we need a gentle nudge to take the ideas in our head and put them on paper (or in email, as the case may be).  The Choose Civility Initiative is offering open space and a bit of guidance for Civic Writing this October!  Please join us on Thursdays, 12-1pm (bring your lunch) in Room 4!

In 1999, Sandra Stotsky published a call for increased civic writing.  In it she argues: Participatory writing–the unpaid writing that citizens do as part of the process of democratic self-government is a necessary and inseparable component of democratic self-government. 

She goes on to suggest 5 purposes for civic writing :

  1. Personalize relationships with public officials through letter writing to individual representatives (Letter writing or email).
  2. Obtain information or assistance for oneself, one’s community, or another person (letter, phone call, meeting with a member of the staff of a Government Official or Agency.
  3. Provide public information or to offer a public service (newsletters, membership mailings, blog posts, facebook posts, letters to the editor or op-ed; Stotsky also includes agendas, minutes and other writing that emerges from civic organizations).
  4. Evaluate programs, officials or services, both as official work of civic boards and as individual citizens evaluating the work of particular aspects of Government.
  5. Advocate for a cause.  Stotsky writes, “advocacy writing is indispensable for the protection of political rights in a democracy and for the promotion of the common good.” 

The Choose Civility Initiative seeks to expand pathways for civic participation and civil discourse and are happy to see what kinds of expression can happen if we write together! Please join us on for our first session this Thursday (October 10th) — we will focus on Letter’s to the Editor but any writing is welcome!

And, if you can’t come but would like some civic writing prompts, here are a few links to begin with:

Reclaim Democracy’s guidelines for writing effective LTEs.

Center for Media Justice : Letter to the Editor Worksheet

Maine Newspaper List 

Portland Press Herald LTE submissions

League of Women Voters Sample Get-Out-The-Vote Letter

The National Bullying Prevention Center sponsors bully prevention month in October… with Unity Day on October 9th.  Bullying really constitutes the opposite of civility — bullying reduces participation in our civic spaces, targets individuals (often for intrinsic characteristics rather than behaviors) and diminishes the integrity of bystanders.  Bullying undermines community for all of us.  The Choose Civility Initiative hopes to amplify the voices, strategies and resources available to all of us to counter bullying with active efforts to create and sustain welcoming civic spaces.  To that end, please see our ongoing programs and check out some of the following resources!

New books and videos:

Bully [videorecording]

Bullied : what every parent, teacher, and kid needs to know about ending the cycle of fear / Carrie Goldman

Sticks and stones : defeating the culture of bullying and rediscovering the power of character and empathy / Emily Bazelon.

Sexual harassment and bullying : a guide to keeping kids safe and holding schools accountable / Susan L. Strauss.

Local Advocacy Organizations

Department of Education Model Policies

Department of Education – List of Prevention Organizations and Resources

Web Resources

ChildTrends : 5 Things to Know About Kids Who Bully

Teaching Tolerance : Bullying Basics

We also encourage you to use the Opposing Viewpoints Database – search bullying for all kinds of resources!


Have you heard about the USCIS “How Do I” guides series? These guides answer general questions regarding immigration benefits and are currently available in English, Spanish, and Chinese

Choose from the following topics:

The USCIS invites any feedback on how to improve the guides. To share feedback visit the USCIS Idea Community.



When not being used in the Lewis Gallery our two nineteenth century vitrines (glass display cases) are being used in the Information Desk area for displays from the collection.  Our first display in now ready for viewing: a selection of sheet music from the Portland Room Archives.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century musical life revolved around the family piano, and sheet music was provided for home performing mostly from publishers in New York’s Tin Pan Alley.  But most large cities had their own small music publishers
(who were usually instrument and sheet music sellers) and many songwriters would publish with local firms or simply publish their own works.

Portland could boast several such publishers, including the Paine family, whose most distinguished member, John Knowles Paine, was Harvard’s first Professor of Music. J.K.’s father Jacob and uncle William sold instruments and music at 113 Middle Street. The Paines published many of the compositions of Hermann Kotzschmar, the leading Portland musician of the period.  Cressey and Allen had a music shop at 566 Congress Street; Cressey was also a composer and published many of his own pieces.

Many of the compositions featured in our exhibit were on local subjects: dance pieces named for Portland landmarks: the Forest City Polka, the Diamond Cove Waltz, and others in that vein.  Others were hymns to local pride: Somewhere in Maine, Down in Maine.  Patriotic compositions were standbys of the home music collection, and we have several from the Civil War to World War II.

We’ve included two items published “away”.  The first, Kathleen Mavourneen, was a sentimental pseudo-Irish ballad popularized by tenor John McCormick.  It was written by Frederick Nicholls Crouch, an English musician who lived and taught in Portland until his secessionist leanings made him unpopular in 1861; he joined a Virginia regiment as a trumpeter.  The other New York publication is perhaps the most familiar college song of the 1920s, Rudy Vallee’s Maine Stein Song.

We hope that local music lovers, local history buffs, and everybody else will stop by the lower level and see this exhibit!

The USA celebrates Constitution Day today and there are a lot of resources available to help us better understand the Constitution as a foundational document and as a living document.

Access the Constitution through the Library.

The National Constitution Center provides a lot of information and links to additional resources.

Peter Sagal’s Constitution USA (parts 3 & 4 to be shown in Rines on Thursday September 19th, 11:30am – 1:30pm — please come)

icivics is aimed at young people, but provides all of us with more information about how government and civil society work.

Learn more about the Naturailzation Process and try the Self-Test

An NPR story about the citizenship path for a teen born in Sierra Leone

Explore the Opposing Viewpoints Database (connect through the Portland Library homepage – link on the right)  – and especially the segment on Civil Liberties

Learn more about the Bill of Rights through the Library of Congress

Check out the book a-frame at the bottom of the stairs on the lower level for related books!



Six finalists for the prestigious 2013 Booker Prize for fiction were announced recently.  The winner of the prize will be announced at a ceremony in London on Oct. 15. Founded in 1969, the award is officially known as the Man Booker Prize after its sponsor, financial services firm Man Group PLC.

The six finalists include: Harvest by Jim Crace; The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton; The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri; A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki; The Testament of Mary, Colm Toibin; and We Need New Names by Noviolet Bulawayo.  The library owns all the nominated titles with the exception of The Luminaries, which is on order.

The head of the judging panel, writer Robert Macfarlane, said the six novels were “world-spanning in their concerns, and ambitious in their techniques.  It is a shortlist that shows the English language novel to be a form of world literature. It crosses continents, joins countries and spans centuries,” he said.



The POV documentary series continues tonight with 56UP.  This film is part of a unique series that began in 1964,  when filmmaker Michael Apted interviewed  7year olds about their lives in Great Britain.  He has now interviewed and created films about them 8 times — catch the first 7 on dvd and watch the latest installment tonight in Rines Auditorium or stream it from the POV website beginning on October 15th.


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