BHML sets summer line up, eyes centennial

Mon, 07/24/2023 - 8:45am

    Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library (BHML), a community hub since 1924, is gearing up for a busy summer of activities and events. Executive Director Joanna Breen explained, “circulation is almost back to pre-pandemic levels: 28,000 in 2022 after dropping to 12,000 in 2020.” With local population swelling in July and August, the library expects circulation, or checkouts, to hit 30,000 this year. 

    The Summer Reading Passport program for children is indicative of the library’s sustained growth. “Each year the number of participants grows,” said Children’s Coordinator Jen Betts. “Last year we had 120 kids coming regularly. This program keeps kids reading and engaged through the summer when many experience a school lag.” The program includes about 30 hours of reading, with incentive gifts, crafts, outdoor story times and literary challenges along the way. The library offers mini passports for short-term residents and weekly visitors.

    This year’s passport theme is “All Together Now.” Participants will read books about friendship, working and playing together, community, inclusion, kindness, animal friends, and being good global citizens. The program kicks off June 27 with prizes and activities on the lawn and concludes Aug. 18 with ice cream and a raffle whose winner gets to be librarian for a day.

    BHML programs and events span the interests of every age group. “Our large print collection is a favorite with seniors,” said Betts. Afterschool gaming clubs, LEGOS, and “Girls Who Code” have been popular with teens.

    Author talks, bingo, mah-jongg, stitch craft, writers’ workgroups, multi-generational chess club, book clubs, and more are offered throughout the summer calendar. Bubbles and chalk, giant lawn games and outdoor story time are offered every Friday starting June 30. “Moving outside in the summer helps us accommodate the extra people,” said Betts. The Hallowell Community Band has been performing concerts on the BHML lawn for decades and will continue the near 50-year tradition this summer.

    Find program descriptions and the summer events calendar at

    “We are closing in on 100 years and eyeing the next 100 years,” said Development & Marketing Coordinator John Nunan. “We’ve not launched a capital campaign yet, but we are in the planning stages,” said Breen. The library’s property has recently been rezoned and plans are underway for an expansion/renovation of the campus. “We’ve had great support from the town,” Breen added.

    BHML is a nonprofit funded through a combination of private citizens and businesses, with about one-third of annual funding coming from the towns of Boothbay Harbor and Boothbay. The library also receives an annual gift from Edgecomb and proceeds from Friends of the BHML used bookstore. In 2022, the used bookstore, which is entirely volunteer-operated, processed thousands of donated books and raised about $25,000 for the library. The library’s annual appeal will go out in July with a target of raising $140,000, said Breen. “Our annual plant sale is June 3. It’s always very popular.”

    The library has 3.5 full-time employees, a total of five staff members and 15 volunteers. “Not only do we have great volunteers, but they’ve all been here at least 10 years,” said Breen. “They’ve all been here longer than any of us (paid staff).”

    “This place is alive,” said Nunan. “The amount of people through our doors, and the conversations that are inspired.” He loves his job. “It’s so personal, we get to build relationships,” said Betts. For Breen, who has worked and volunteered at many libraries, private to prison, advocates for “access to information, freely. The role of the library in the community is to support people who want to learn.” Through her dedicated work, she hopes to advance intellectual freedom in “our incredible seaside community,” she said.