Portland is one of the favorite places on this planet to congregate: to eat, drink, study, work...and to read.  Which brings us to one of the principal reading facilities in our town.

The Main Branch of the Public Library. You know where it is. You've passed it, you've seen the lights change at twilight on that beautiful glass sign with the word "library" in 35 languages. Park your car, sometime, anywhere in the vicinity, and walk over.  Dive past the haze of cigarette smoke from the congregants outside, go thru the automatic doors and in you go.  The first thing you hear is quiet chatter in the Atrium overlooking Monument Square and--a water fountain. In Portland.

The people working there are a fine combination of trained librarians and teachers, and in one case, from Reference, a bagpiper; and from he front desk, someone who splits their time between the library and one of Portland's favorite bookstores.

The EPA says Maine has enough sunlight to properly power homes with solar.  We crave the sun during old-fashioned winters; mid-summers when our cubicles need a break.  And, there's nothing better than natural light if you want a good read.  That was one intent behind the refab of the Main Branch...bring in the light, from end to end and side to side.  The other was to make it a center-point, a destination, in the City.  By all accounts, it's working.

Despite the upstairs and outer refab--they're only about half done with it--with 1st and 3rd floor galleries, and Rines Auditorium (more about that in a sec), the library is first and foremost a place for books.  They moved the Reference Desk downstairs, the kids area upstairs, opened up nooks and crannies of the building, especially near windows, for reading benches and chairs; and for book discussions and meeting areas for kids, teens and adults.  And, created expanses for research, study and computer time.

As no "aside", but seemingly as a reason to be, for the March First Friday Art Walk, the staff removed all the chairs and tables in the high-windowed Atrium to make way for a stellar performance by numerous dancers from the Portland Ballet.  It slowed traffic, and the crowd was six-deep on the sidewalk.  Every second Wednesday, Rines Auditorium hosts some of Maine's best story-tellers, and wannabe's, with a group called MOOSE--in April, there was a great story told about a tiger, a snake and a thumb.  See what else Rines puts on.

Last, for those, like the Vulture, who really like libraries, museums, art galleries and coffee shops, the Library goes out of its way to feature local [often funkafied] artwork like the Fu Dog Sculpture, or glass puppets hanging from the ceiling in the Level 1 Atrium.

Pure Cool.

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