Young patrons learn about Maine’s owls during a presentation by Chewonki’s Traveling Natural History Program at the Orr’s Island Library. (Daniel Hoebeke photo)
I spent a couple of days in September on a friend’s boat. My goal was to take pictures for the Orr’s Island Library’s 2025 Harpswell calendar, which will be entitled “Harpswell from the Water.” It was during day two when he remarked, “I can’t believe we get to live here.”
While thinking about this month’s “Library Connections” column, I found that a variation on that theme applies to the Orr’s Island Library — “I can’t believe we get to serve here.”
We often think about Harpswell in terms of the average age of our residents. Therefore, when we ponder services for the Harpswell community, the first model that comes to mind is Harpswell Aging at Home and the fabulous work they do in providing for a frequently vulnerable constituency.
Although addressing the needs of our older population is crucial, the library’s constituency is more expansive. Consider our summers, when we not only have our houses full of guests, but temporary residents and visitors abound.
One couple and their two young children vacationed here for the month of July. In addition to attending all of the library’s weekly children’s programs put on by Chewonki, they got a library card and regularly left with arms full of books. When the weather was rainy, they found the library to be a welcoming place to simply hang out, use the public computers and browse the used bookstore.
Their experience was not unique. During this past summer, half of the library cards were issued to summer visitors. In addition, in part because of the expansion of our children’s and young adult book sections, the percentage of books checked out by young people rose from 3% to 25% of the total.
We met many people at the August book sale who purposely came for this annual event, and others who engaged in lively book discussions with total strangers and simply experienced firsthand what Maine hospitality is all about.
The Longest Yard Sale, held on the library lawn over Labor Day weekend, put a virtual end to the summer season. With that group of constituents gone, our focus has again shifted to those who call Harpswell their permanent home.
The air conditioning has been turned off and the fireplace on, but the comfortable seating areas still beckon. The used bookstore remains open for browsing and our public computers, printers and free Wi-Fi continue to be valuable local resources.
Indoor programming continues through the fall and winter months. The First Thursday programs at 7 p.m. feature topics of general interest. Special programs, such as Janice Thompson’s talk about her book, “Dry Tinder: A Tale of Rivalry and Injustice in Salem Village” (Saturday, Oct. 21, at 4 p.m.), will be added as schedules permit.
The Community Connections Tea, a new opportunity for local people to gather informally, begins on Oct. 10 at 10 a.m.
If you grew up thinking, as I did, that a Smith-Corona electric typewriter was state-of-the-art, new technology may feel intimidating, if not downright threatening. The Orr’s Island Library offers free help with computer, cellphone, email and related issues. On a personal note, my latest phone issue was resolved in under five minutes.
The gentle voices you hear on Tuesday mornings at 10 are from the preschool story hour. New readers are always welcome.
In the coming months, the Orr’s Island Library will continue to expand its collaboration with the Cundy’s Harbor and Curtis libraries, local nonprofit organizations and area schools. As I suggested above, we may not be able to believe we get to serve here, but it certainly is a pleasure to do so.
“Library Connections” is a monthly column that rotates among the three libraries that serve Harpswell: Cundy’s Harbor, Orr’s Island and Curtis Memorial. Daniel Hoebeke is the president of the Orr’s Island Library Board of Trustees.