Portland Public Library

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Portland Public Library
Country United States
Type Public
Established 1867
Location Portland, Maine
Branches Main Library, 3 neighborhood branches, and Portable Library
Size 238,815
Access and use
Circulation 895,000
Population served 66,194
Other information
Budget $3,861,396
Director Steve Podgajny
Staff 94
Website www.portlandlibrary.com

The Portland Public Library is the name of the public library system for Portland, Maine, USA. It is also the name of the city's main library which is located at 5 Monument Square on Congress Street in the Old Port neighborhood of Portland. The system also has three neighborhood branch locations: Burbank Branch, Peaks Island Branch, and Riverton Branch.

View of the Portland Public Library, 2008, from Monument Square before remodeling


Portland Athenaeum

The Portland Athenaeum (1826-1876) in Portland, Maine, was a subscription library incorporated in 1826 by "Ichabod Nichols, Edward Payson, Albion K. Parris, Prentiss Mellen, William P. Preble, Ashur Ware, Stephen Longfellow, Nicholas Emery, Isaac Adams, Simon Greenleaf, Joseph Adams, William Willis, William B. Sewall, Charles S. Daveis, Robert Ilsley, Andrew L. Emerson, John Mussey, William Swan, Alford Richardson, Barrett Potter, Eliphalet Greely, James C. Churchill, George Warren, Nathaniel Mitchell, Benjamin Willis, Jeremiah Haskell, Oliver Gerrish,[1] Joseph Harrod, Jacob Knight, Henry Smith [and] William Wood."[2][3] As gratefully noted in a local newspaper in 1826:

"Such an institution has long been a desideratum among us. Other towns inferior to this in size and wealth have gone before us in the career of literary enterprize ... and yet we are not willing to allow that there is any lack of literary elements in the town, but they lie scattered and dormant. There is no common centre of gravity to bring them into healthful action; they are like coals lying asunder which give no heat. We have scholars in town ... but their lights are hid under a bushel. ... We want an institution which shall bring them in contact, and give them the benefit of mutual light and heat, and action. ... [It] shall combine a reading-room, a library and cabinet. ... It is contemplated to unite, if practicable, the two reading-rooms now open in town, together with the Portland Library."[4]

Early supporters included Stephen Longfellow (father of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow),[5] and William Willis.[6] By 1856, the Athenaeum had "160 proprietors and ... a library, in the hall second story of the Canal Bank building [on Middle Street], of 8,500 volumes."[7] James Merrill served as librarian, ca.1850.[8]

"In 1861 the corporation erected a neat brick building ... on a lot previously purchased in Plum street. The building measures on the ground sixty-six feet by thirty-six; the principal or library room is forty feet long by thirty-four feet wide, and twenty feet high. There are two ante-rooms on the lower floor and two rooms above for the various uses of the society."[9] "The number of bound volumes it contained in October, 1864, was ten thousand six hundred and forty-seven, beside pamphlets."[10] However in 1866 the Athenaeum lost its collection in a fire.[11] In 1876 it merged with the "Portland Institute and Public Library" to form "a Free Public Library."[12]

Construction of the main library building (Baxter Building) located at 5 Monument Square was completed in 1979. [13] Phase One of a major renovation of the main building by Scott Simons Architects was completed in 2010.[14]


  1. Oliver Gerrish (1796-1888); cf. Genealogical and family history of the state of Maine, Volume 3. NY: Lewis historical publishing company, 1909
  2. Special laws of the state of Maine passed by the Legislature. Portland: Smith & Robinson, 1826
  3. The "Portland Athenaeum & Reading Room" had been in operation as early as 1822; cf. Eastern_Argus, 01-01-1822; "Portland Athenaeum & Reading Room," Eastern_Argus, 12-13-1825
  4. "Portland Athenaeum." Eastern_Argus, 02-28-1826
  5. Eastern_Argus, 05-16-1826; Eastern_Argus, 01-25-1831;
  6. Eastern_Argus.; Date: 12-18-1827
  7. "Portland Athenum." S.B. Beckett. The Portland directory and reference book. Brown Thurston, 1856; p.312.
  8. S.B. Beckett. The Portland reference book and city directory for 1850-51. Thurston & Co., 1850; p.200.
  9. William Willis. The history of Portland, from 1632 to 1864, 2nd ed. Portland: Bailey & Noyes, 1865
  10. Willis. 1865
  11. John Neal. Account of the great conflagration in Portland, July 4th, & 5th, 1866. Portland Starbird & Twitchell, 1866
  12. Dedicatory exercises of the Baxter Building: to the uses of the Portland Public Library and Maine Historical Society, Thursday, February 21, 1889. Auburn, Maine: Lakeside Press, Printers and Binders, 1889
  13. "About the Main Library". portlandlibrary.com. Portland Public Library. Retrieved 17 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Portland Public Library Renovation". portlandarchitects.org. Portland Society for Architecture. 2010. Retrieved 17 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

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External links

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