Stonington library welcomes the world

At 64 Main St., the Stonington Public Library offers monthly poetry open-mics, book Bingo challenges, a secondhand book sale and other activities and events year-round. OUT & ABOUT PHOTOS BY MAGGIE TROVATO

A sparkling white clapboard, the Stonington Public Library stands out in downtown Stonington. Built in 1857, the building at 64 Main Street has a friendly air, welcoming passers-by on a sunny day or a cold and cloudy one. A takeout, serving up homemade ice cream and lobster rolls, beckons from the next block.

For readers who love discussing books, library Director Chris Ross started a monthly book club last year. In 2022, the group is focusing on recently published books by BIPOC women (Black, Indigenous and People of color). In June, they read Japanese author Mieko Kawakmi’s “Heaven.” In July, they’re delving into Anishinaabe Canadian author Tanya Talaga’s “Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City.”

Recently, the library launched a poetry open mic night on the first Tuesday of each month. The monthly event is intended to create a welcoming, affirming spaces for LGBTQ+ youth in the community. The first open mic night was a success.

“We had a full house,” he said. “It was fantastic. People read their own poetry; people read favorites.”

For kids, the library runs “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten,” a national nonprofit program, in which children are rewarded with prizes for every 100 books they read or listen to. Book bingo challenges are offered, too, for K-eighth-graders teens and adults.

For vacationing visitors, passing through or staying in the area for a short spell, the library sells books for a couple bucks each. On the second floor, readers can peruse the shelves for any titles piquing their interest.

The library’s director Chris Ross started a monthly book club last year.

“Last summer we didn’t have a book sale at all, and a lot of people would come in [and ask], ‘Do you have any books for sale? Do you have any books for sale?’” Ross said. “They want to pick up something and go because some are only here for a day, some are only passing through, and they don’t always want to sign up for a library card.”

In its collection, the library includes books by present and past local authors such as American painter, architect and philanthropist Emily Muir. Locally produced journals such as those by the Deer Isle Stonington Historical Society are carried too.

Before it opened in 1955, the Chase Emerson Memorial Library was the only library on Deer Isle. The Island Woman’s Club’s saw to the Stonington library’s establishment at 64 Main St.

“A set of island women who were movers and shakers got together and decided we needed something here in downtown Stonington,” Ross said.

The library was housed in various places before settling in its current building that once was occupied by a grocery store, millinery shop and dress shop.

Caroline Spear still remembers helping her grandmother with a “Silver Tea” library fundraising event in the early 1960s. The former Stonington Library board member recalls how women in the community were invited for an afternoon of tea and cookies to raise money to cover the library’s mortgage.

The library’s collection includes books by local authors including painter, architect and philanthropist Emily Muir.

“My sister and I, the two of us would have to get dressed up and pass [out] cookies,” she said.

Spear, who is the current assistant to Penobscot Bay Press’s publisher and heads the book division, is happy with how the library has grown and improved since she was a young girl. She appreciates what Ross has done, as well.

“Chris has really turned this library into a vibrant spot that is open, literally, to everybody,” she said.

Stonington Public Library is open year-round on Tuesdays and Thursday-Saturday. For hours, visit stoningtonlibrary.org or the library’s Facebook page. For more info, call 367-5926 or email [email protected].