Bringing an experienced ‘way of thinking’ to a unique kind of library

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the things Deb Armer says she likes best about the Jackson Memorial Library (JML), where she has been on the job as Librarian for just under two months, is that “there is no ‘shushing’ in this library—there’s no ‘shushing’ allowed!”

In this sense, Armer believes, the JML is unique. “Most libraries are libraries in the traditional sense,” she explains, pointing to Camden’s library as a good example of this type of facility. “They are quieter than this. And they are not next to a school. The JML, on the other hand, “is a gathering place.”

While Armer has a great deal of library experience—she has worked in corporate settings as well as in large public libraries—she has never before been involved with a library that is also a community center. Acknowledging this, she gives a slight shrug, noting, “Library stuff is library stuff. It’s a way of thinking.”

When a person goes to library school, Armer says, they don’t choose a specific area to major in. Instead, the focus is, first, on how to categorize information and, second, on who you will be serving. Putting the two things together becomes a matter of “how to get the right person to the right thing that they want.”

Applying this to St. George, she says, is a straightforward matter—but it will also be a process. “I am in the mode right now of absorbing everything and understanding the community. What are the kind of people who live in St. George, what do they need and like? Are we serving all of the people in St. George? I want to make sure we’re not missing anybody. So I spend a lot of time talking with people. Especially men, because I know that in a lot of libraries there are a lot of women involved. Whenever I see men in here, I ask, ‘What do you think of the magazines we have here? Is there something you’d like to see? Do you enjoy science fiction? I notice that we don’t have a lot of science fiction in the collection.’ It’s hard to know what a community really wants without speaking to everyone.”

Armer has also spent her first weeks working at the JML learning what she calls “the rhythm” of the place. “My biggest challenge so far has been keeping track of who is here and when. The volunteers work on a whole lot of different things. It’s also hard to keep track of staff because we are often here at different times. As a result it is hard to find time to have a staff meeting when everyone can be here.”

Although JML board member Bonnie Percival coordinates and schedules the volunteers, making the best use of what they bring to their work is Armer’s particular responsibility. “The volunteers are great—having people from the community involved is so important. If you are going to have a community library that’s a community center people have to feel like the library is theirs. The volunteers are always asking what else they can do to help. I’ve heard from other librarians that their volunteers often just don’t show up. But that is not the case here. It’s a good reflection on the quality of our volunteers and how much they feel they are contributing. It’s a very responsible group.”

Children's writer Hazel Mitchell visits the after-school program.

Children’s writer Hazel Mitchell visits the after-school program.

Armer says she also very much enjoys the way the JML is serving St. George’s children. “The library is an extension of the school, which I love. Teachers are bringing their classes here to do research and check out books. And we have the pre-K program and the after-school program. My dad always took me to a library on a Saturday, which is something I see parents here doing.”
Settling in midcoast Maine a year ago, Armer says, was a bit of a dream come true. She grew up on Long Island and her husband is from upstate New York, spending summers in Brittany with his mother’s family. They spent their honeymoon on Deer Isle. After living in Chicago for 20 years and then in Denver for 10 years, the couple realized that, deep down, they wanted to be living in the Northeast, not in the Midwest and West. When her husband got a job offer from a Boston company which said he could work remotely, they jumped at the chance to move to midcoast Maine, where her brother-in-law was already living. “We just wanted to be here,” Armer says with a satisfied smile.

Sandy Yakovenko conducts a cooking demo.

Sandy Yakovenko conducts a cooking demo.

The librarian position at the JML, Armer says, has added more than a little icing to the cake. “I’m very happy here. A lot of other communities have coffee shops and stores and restaurants that people go to. Around here it’s quieter and people need a place like this. And the kids at the school need a library to go to. There’s so many things going on here, a place to meet and be surrounded by books and DVDs. It’s warm and homey, with nooks and crannies, a great kitchen and great views. This place is very full.” —JW

PHOTOS: From top, Julie Wortman, Sharon Moskowitz and Betsy Welch

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High Island controlled burn took place Nov. 15

high-island-1-sm2Maine Coast Heritage Trust took ownership of High Island in the spring 2016 following a three-year successful fundraising campaign. High Island is located in the Long Cove section of Tenants Harbor. The building on the island was a hazard and on November 15 it was burned. The burn was conducted under the supervision of Amanda Devine, Maine Coast Heritage Trust Regional Stewardship Manager. Volunteer support for the burn was provided by the St. George Fire Department, the St. George Conservation Commission and Blueberry Cove Camp. Additional clean-up work will be done this winter to make the island safe and welcoming for the public. — Les Hyde

high-island-2-smPHOTOS: Les Hyde

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Georges Budago Makoko visits St. George School

makoko-photo-smIn mid November in Madame Harrison’s French classes at the St. George School, all students got to meet Georges Budagu Makoko, an African immigrant to Portland, Maine. He lives there with his wife and two children, a boy and a girl. He told us about his lifestyle in the Democratic Republic of Congo and his lifestyle now. He told us how he had to leave his home and country because of war. He had a tremendous life change from a very small village to a big city. Back where he lived in the Congo, they had to walk for hours, sometimes even days, to get to a city. He told us about the very small village where he grew up where they raised cows, goats, and sheep. He talked about the tiny huts they lived in, and how close everyone was with family and neighbors.

When the war came, they lived in refugee camps. He showed us pictures of one camp with tents where ten or more people would sleep, sometimes for many years before they could go to someplace safe. He was able to get out of Africa and come to the U.S., even though it meant leaving his family. When he got here, he applied for political asylum and eventually became an American citizen. He thinks he is very lucky, but he is also homesick for his old homeland in the Congo.

He brought a guitar and we asked him to play for us. He sang us a song that they would sing to the teachers when he was in school as a boy. We enjoyed his presentation very much. He is nice and his family looks nice, too.

Here is what he says in a book he wrote about his experiences called Ladder to the Moon: A Journey from the Congo to the U.S.: “To some extent, Maine has come to feel like home. At the same time, I will always be home sick from my first home. It is far away from me now, an entire world away. My journey, from my tiny village in Africa, to my home in the U.S. has been like climbing a ladder to the moon.”

(Mathiau is a 7th grade student at the St. George School.)
PHOTO: Kit Harrison

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Around me the moon
Stirs in the stars and
Calls out, “Stay awhile.
Don’t leave me. When
You are not here
I am lonely. So
Stay awhile.”

Alyssa Tynan

(Tynan is a 4th grade student at the St. George School. She wrote this poem as part of Jackson Memorial Library’s “Leaps of Imagination” program.)

PHOTO: Mrs. McCaffray

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St. George VANITZ

img_1240cropped-cWhose plate references something about the car?—Betsy Welch

Who’s behind the wheel? Email your answer to The first reader to respond correctly wins a free business-size ad in the print edition of The Dragon.
Sandra Dickson knew Jan Korpinen’s plate MLPDFRM in the November 17 issue.

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Caught—between a depleted fishery and the desire for a livelihood

Glen Libby and Antonia Small

Glen Libby and Antonia Small

In 2009, when Port Clyde ground fisherman Glen Libby was just about two years into an effort to develop what he and his fellow fishermen were calling a sustainable Community Supported Fishery (CSF) centered around a new fishermen’s coop and a fish processing business called Port Clyde Fresh Catch, local fine art photographer Antonia Small asked if she could take pictures as a means of capturing their endeavors in black-and-white. Libby agreed.

As the images began to accumulate, opportunities arose to share them with others in art galleries and through slide shows. A book became a logical next step. So Small went back to Libby with another request: Would he write the story that inspired the photographs? Again, Libby agreed. CAUGHT: Time. Place. Fish., expected to be available by Thanksgiving, is the result.

“What I love about Glen’s writing is that there is this element of surprise because when I started showing the pictures and talked about why I cared about this CSF effort I had fishermen come up to me and say, ‘I appreciate that you don’t see the fishermen as the enemy—like that what we want to do is to kill all the fish.’ But that is not the story. The story is that what Glen and the other fishermen want is a livelihood. And Glen does a really good job of saying that for a while that is what they did, killed all the fish they could, because that is what the market demanded.”

Libby agrees, but quickly adds, “So much has changed and for the better. The overall message of the book is that price is so important when it comes to conservation.”

Capt’n Lee, June 2009

Capt’n Lee, June 2009

Libby goes on to admit, but without apology, that the text of CAUGHT, “is basically the world according to Glen.” With down-to-earth candor and self-deprecating humor, he painstakingly lays out the ways market forces, technological changes and entrenched mindsets resulted in fishing businesses that were unsustainable and a resource that was severely depleted. He also lays out the new business model he and the others involved in the CSF project decided to pursue in response.

“Our approach affirms the small-boat fleet,” Libby says. This means lobster-boat-size vessels that fish according to the season—a mix of ground fish, scallops, lobster and shrimp.

Libby references a conversation with Monhegan fisherman Mattie Thompson who had recently been down in Gloucester at the Gordon’s wharf. “They were loading trucks with Alaskan pollock that had been sent to China for processing and flown to Gloucester for distribution. So that industrial approach is still happening, the big monolithic thing is still there.”

Instead, Libby says, although the politics is still driven by the industrial, bigger-is-better model, he favors multiple processing facilities servicing fleets of small boats. “Let’s say a small boat goes out and gets 200 lbs. of codfish using poles. The going rate for that cod is $4 a pound, so we at Port Clyde Fresh Catch will pay the fisherman $800. That’s not too bad for a small boat. But if you have a 100-foot boat, 200 lbs. of cod doesn’t even pay for the gas from here out to the lighthouse. So the small boats have a chance at a high-end market.”

And the local community has a chance at more jobs—and to market the very freshest fish possible to local consumers, if not exclusively by the share system typical of Community Supported Agriculture farms, in a way that gets at the true meaning of community support. “This new model would never have had legs if it wasn’t for the local food movement,” Libby acknowledges. “People are now thinking about what they are eating and want their food to be as fresh and locally sourced as possible.”

In both words and photographs, Libby and Small also devote a significant amount of space in CAUGHT to the processing side of the CSF enterprise, namely Port Clyde Fresh Catch. A reader quickly learns to appreciate, as did the neophyte fish-cutter and crab-picker Libby, how crucial skilled and efficient cutting and picking are to the venture’s bottom line.

Ray Upham picking crab, August 2010

Ray Upham picking crab, August 2010

It has been a struggle to challenge an industry mindset in an environment where the fishery is in a rebuilding phase due to depletion. When Fresh Catch was launched in 2007 there were 12 ground-fishing boats in the Port Clyde fleet—now there is just one. “Randy Cushman is the last boat between here and Canada,” Libby says. But he believes the stage is now set for a more promising future. “It’s a sustainable fishery now, there are just no boats.”

In a chapter titled “Visioning,” Libby reflects, “Catching less and making more, or at least making enough, makes sense to most people. By adopting this model, there could potentially be a return to a fishery where fishermen participate in various fisheries throughout the year to make sure they catch enough dollars to keep their business and livelihood viable. That is the way fisheries in places like Port Clyde worked historically.”

Gary Libby’s hand on the wheel, September 2012

Gary Libby’s hand on the wheel, September 2012

CAUGHT will be available at most retailers after Thanksgiving. Online orders are also available at —JW

PHOTO top, Julie Wortman, black and white photos from the book by Antonia Small

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Mrs. Palmer’s solar project


Left to right: Hayzel, Mrs. Palmer, Leilani, and Drew.

By Taylor Warrington and Addie McPhail

Fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Amy Palmer applied for and received a Georges River Education Foundation Grant (GREF) to do a solar project, investigating the reason for seasons on earth, how the atmosphere protects us and how we affect the atmosphere.

The GREF money went to buy a solar oven and a sextant. The kids have discovered that when the sun’s energy is trapped inside the oven, it gets warm enough to bake something. (225 degrees so far!) The class has been baking carrot cake. The sextant measures how high the sun is. Mrs. Palmer is focusing on this project because she wanted to investigate the greenhouse effect and find out if the height of the sun affects the length of time to bake the carrot cake. “Once a month we time the baking to see how much time it takes, depending on how high the sun is,” said Mrs.Palmer. We interviewed the 5th graders. Here are the results: Everyone likes making the carrot cake in the solar oven and their favorite part was baking it and eating it. “Yes,” Ella’s favorite part was, “eating the cake and baking it!” We hope they do well in their solar project.

(Warrington and McPhail are 6th grade students at the St. George School).

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