A family finds bargains during a book sale. (DANIEL HOEBEKE PHOTO)

On a warm August morning, it was Day One of the annual Orr’s Island Library Book Sale and Library Fair on the front lawn.

The young boy could barely see over the checkout table. Two oversized children’s books were awkwardly clutched to his chest. In his other hand was a quarter, held as though it was a family heirloom. His mother watched from a short distance while completing a purchase of blueberry pie from the bake sale table.

“Do you promise to read them?”


“Then take them both for a quarter and remember to share them with others when you are finished.”

Day Two: Book sale participants are not a particularly rowdy bunch, so when a squad car stopped and put on its lights, the crowd froze. I quickly approached and, leaning through his open window, asked, “Is there a problem, officer?”

“No. One of your traffic cones tipped over and I was just setting it upright.” A thumbs-up reassured the shoppers that all was well. One thing to appreciate about Harpswell is that lights on a squad car do not necessarily mean trouble.

Josh Sparks, of Sparks’ Ark, holds up a mystery egg during a presentation at Orr’s Island Library. (DANIEL HOEBEKE PHOTO)

Day Three: The library was closed during the book sale, but the doors remained open for one good reason — the only public restroom on the island is frequently discovered with great gratitude. Two young children had disappeared into the library quite some time ago. I found them walking around the children’s section, clearly exploring.

“Is it OK to be in here?” The tone was that of a child who had just been caught red-handed.

“The library is closed, but yes.”

“Our mom is taking a reeeeeaaaaly long time picking out books and it’s nice and cool in here,” came the cautious explanation.

“Well, while you are waiting, would you like to use our computers?”

“Sure!” Within moments, they settled in with an ease and familiarity that will always be foreign to those of us who are bit older.

Mom did, of course, show up sometime later and announce she was ready to leave.

“Do we HAVE to go?”

A vendor gives two thumbs up during the Longest Yard Sale. (DANIEL HOEBEKE PHOTO)

COVID-19 may have limited indoor library activities during the summer, but the front lawn was kept busy, making the best use of exceptional weather.

Periodically, we had a pop-up Books on the Lawn event, featuring three to four tables of used books that could be bought with “whatever you care to contribute.” Book tables are like a magnet for the curious. One person said that you’d never see anything like this in New York. Correct. Harpswell is not New York.

Weekly summer children’s programming resumed in July. It was kicked off by Josh Sparks from Sparks’ Ark, who brought a number of animals to show and describe. At one point he held up a large egg and asked if anyone could guess what it was. A number of hands shot up with “I know! I know!” And they did.

Describing the annual Book Sale and Library Fair as a financial success (though true) misses its true impact. More than 2,000 books found new homes. One visitor said that on vacation, she missed her own library. I told her that visitors get free cards here. “But we are only here for a week!” “Then you’d better read fast.”

“I’m having trouble getting a signal.” You will often see cars parked in front of the library, even when it is not open. This is because we have the only free public Wi-Fi on Orr’s and Bailey islands. In 2022 alone, more than 550 different people have used this service.

Free vegetables will continue to be available on the lawn on Wednesdays through the end of October, part of Sharing Tables, a collaborative effort coordinated by Harpswell Aging at Home. The offerings change weekly depending on what is ripe. Translation: We’re not just zucchini.

Labor Day weekend welcomed the annual Longest Yard Sale, again on the library lawn. This year 14 vendors set up 22 tables in front of the library and drew a large crowd of bargain hunters. According to one participant: “This is one time when ‘selling out’ is a good thing!”

If the library lawn looks like it took a beating this summer, now you know why.

Serving Harpswell since 1905, the Orr’s Island Library has an on-site inventory of nearly 10,000 books, DVDs and audiobooks. Its 2023 Harpswell calendar is now available, with all proceeds benefiting the library. Daniel Hoebeke is president of the library’s board.

“Library Connections” is a monthly column that rotates among the three libraries serving Harpswell: Cundy’s Harbor, Orr’s Island and Curtis Memorial.