Updated: Jul 25, 2022
Downeast Roots and Islandport Press are developing Little Free Libraries in Milbridge and Cherryfield as part of an initiative to establish a Little Free Library & Art Trail. This network of custom-designed library boxes throughout Washington County is intended to make education and literacy more accessible in rural Maine through art, language, and community. Downeast Roots is a consortium of local organizations who promote each other's work, share resources, and collaborate on projects. Their library initiative has been ongoing since 2021.
Little Free Libraries is one of the largest book-sharing movements in the world, with over 150,000 registered installations. These wooden library boxes appear in neighborhoods everywhere and offer an easy book exchange for those looking to discover new reads, share their favorite books, and build a reading community. Now they are in Washington County!
The libraries are always open and are free to the public. Locals are invited to borrow the books and return them, or follow the “Take a Book, Leave a Book” model. Each library will have a steward to monitor the collection, including Lynda Bider and Kathy Nabarette of Milbridge.
As of July 2022, five little libraries have been installed in Milbridge, each uniquely named and designed by local artists in Washington County. More libraries are planned for the future in the town of Cherryfield.
Here is a look into the stories behind the first five libraries!
The Seaside Shanty Library, located at the Women for Healthy Living office on Main Street, was designed and built by Maeve Perry and Zachary Tomko. Maeve is a freelance artist from Cherryfield, specializing in custom portraits. Her partner, Zachary, creates hand-hewn wood frames. They worked together to create a library which bears resemblance to the house behind it.
A Whimsical Treehouse Library is accurately named, as it is built around a cedar tree, has 3-D shingling of a dragonfly and flower, and boasts a hand-carved eagle on its uppermost tip. It was designed and built by Aaron Dvorkin, a Finnish carpenter living in Steuben. This library is located in the Children’s Garden at Milbridge Commons Wellness Park.
Sharing Culture, Connecting the Dots was carefully painted by Janie Snider. Janie is a self-taught artist who earned a teaching degree in elementary education from the University of Maine at Machias, as well as state certification in Visual Arts. Janie draws inspiration for her paintings from a deep appreciation for the beauty in nature. This library can be found outside Vazquez Mexican Takeout in Milbridge.
Little Stoney Library is located at Incredible Edible Milbridge Garden at Red Barn Motel.This eye-catching piece was painted by artist Ken Graslie, a Maine resident since 2000, whose work ranges from bold abstracts to subtle realism, with a strong infusion of color.
To The Lighthouse, was recently installed on The Alfred & Cynthia Sudbury Walking Trail. This library was designed by Kayla Pinkham, a resident of Harrington. Drawn to activities such as photography and printmaking, Kayla honed her skills in college art classes. An avid reader, Kayla is also a member of the Downeast Women’s Book Club.
In addition to Downeast Roots, the Maine Seacoast Mission, in partnership with Mano en Mano, is planning to expand the Washington County Little Free Libraries project to the town of Cherryfield. The Mission, in addition to supporting island communities with the famed Sunbeam, a vessel that delivers services to Maine’s out-island communities, also maintains an increasing presence in Washington County with its EdGE after school program initiative. The Cherryfield Little Free Libraries are still in development and are highly anticipated in the community.
The Little Free Library project, which includes language and art-related materials in addition to books, is part of Islandport Press’s effort to increase access to literature in underserved and rural communities. Islandport has donated more than $2,000 worth of books to the libraries, an initiative that began in 2021. Additional donations were made this month and will happen again once the Cherryfield libraries are established. Islandport is excited to supply and resupply books to the libraries to keep them fresh and local.
“Like me, some of our staff grew up in Eastern and Northern Maine, so we are keenly aware of the challenges that exist in these areas,” said Dean L. Lunt, Editor-in-Chief of Islandport and a native of Frenchboro. “Part of our mission is to highlight voices from all Maine regions and to discover the stories that exist. We see the Little Free Libraries as another way to amplify such voices to readers statewide and hopefully inspire people to not only tell their stories but to appreciate the local art and literature that is all around them.”
Downeast Roots, the organization that pioneered Washington County's Little Free Libraries, is fiscally sponsored by Women for Healthy Rural Living and has been spear-headed by WHRL’s assistant director, Zabet NeuCollins. For more information about Downeast Roots and the Little Free Libraries project, visit https://downeastroots.org or contact Zabet at email@example.com or 207.546.7677.