Tuesday, January 12, 2010

RFP for Food and Beverage Cart at the renovated Library!

We are now over 80% complete for our project. One of the amenities in the new space will be a coffee cart in the front lobby area.

We are hopeful that a local business will operate the cart and we invite food and beverage businesses to respond to our RFP. The proposal is posted at http://www.portlandlibrary.com/FoodandBeverageRFP1-12-2010.pdf and the deadline for proposals is 5PM on Saturday, January 30th.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Library Receives $10,000 Grant

The Capital Campaign Committee is pleased to announce the receipt of a $10,000 Infrastructure Grant from the Maine Humanities Council to assist in the purchase audio/visual equipment, including audio systems, projection systems, and public address systems. This equipment will be installed in the newly renovated Rines Auditorium and adjacent meeting rooms scheduled for completion in spring 2010.

The Maine Humanities Council has been a significant partner in supporting Library services and technologies that advance our ability to deliver quality humanities programs. With this up-to-date audio/visual equipment the Library will increase the number of humanities programs of various types, including presentations, small musical performances, and film projections. Our goal is to engage broad audiences in humanities programs, as well as create lifelong user relationships with the Library.

The new audio/visual equipment will offer enhanced audience experience through appropriate sound amplification and visual quality, particularly for elderly audiences. Moreover, the equipment will enable the Library to record events for wider dissemination, such as via podcasting and video avenues.

With an eye on the budget, the Library will have fully equipped facilities available for rental for conferences, seminars, and meetings. For more information on advanced scheduling of rentals after May 1, 2010, please contact Wendy Nowell, nowell@portland.lib.me.us.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The renovation got underway in April, signaled by a change in traffic flow on Congress and Elm Streets with striping and concrete barriers. New pedestrian walkways and vehicle pathways were also created. Now the glass curtainwall and facade work on our building’s exterior can begin in May.

April was also when the interior of the Library became a full-fledged construction zone. Demolition of ducts and walls got underway on the Lower Level in the former Youth Services Library and Audio/ Video Area, on the Main floor, and at the Triangle (an infill area on the 3rd floor in Technical Services). Construction on the 3rd floor to infill the open triangle also began. Temporary dust walls were installed by the glass skylight at the North elevation (skylight facing Marginal Way).

Demolition work continued into early May. In addition, new work began on the "overhang" of Level 4 that abuts Room 316, as well as some work in the courtyard.

The official commencement of construction was celebrated on Thursday, May 7, 2009, with a Groundbreaking Ceremony. The event marks a new chapter for Portland Public Library as its main branch on Monument Square undergoes a significant 43,300 SF renovation. Speakers at the Ceremony included Morris Fisher, President, Board of Trustees; Nick Mavodones, Jr., Portland City Councilor and former Mayor; Scott Simons, Principal, Scott Simons Architects; and Steve Podgajny, Executive Director, Portland Public Library.

> Morris Fisher speaking, Nick Mavodones

Following the remarks Library project representatives broke ground to honor the occasion: Peter Barnard, President, Ledgewood Construction; Taffy Field, former President, Board of Trustees; Joe Gray, City Manager, City of Portland; Morris Fisher, President, Board of Trustees; Nick Mavodones, City Councilor and former Mayor; Scott Simons, Principal, Scott Simons Architects; and Steve Podgajny, Executive Director, Portland Public Library.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Urban Screen, proposed for the Library’s façade in our forthcoming renovation, has gathered a certain amount of press attention (Tux Turkel, “Portland library to undergo 21st-century makeover,” Portland Press Herald, February 17, 2009). Understandably so! It’s an exciting feature of the new Library.

But a correction to this reporting is necessary. While we are enthusiastic about the Urban Screen, it is not part of this first phase of construction.

We hope the Urban Screen will be installed in Phase II, although it is not included in the budget and funding will depend on additional private donations.

We also will spend additional time considering the various questions that have come our way after the article’s printing (audio, content of material, types of use, billboard regulations, etc.).

If you would like to learn more about the Urban Screen, see the description below:

Ver: 03/05/09

A Definition
Urban Screens are defined as large outdoor digital displays, such as daylight compatible LED signs and high-tech plasma screens, used in urban spaces. Although their use in advertisement and news is widely known and readably observable in major U.S. cities—the most obvious example being the Times Square Astrovision Screen in New York City, urban screens are at the beginning of a worldwide movement placing digital displays in public squares for cultural purposes.

In Europe, particularly, urban screens are given broad cultural content for Architecture, Art, Urban Studies, and Digital Culture. As Mirjam Struppek of Urban Media Research in Berlin has said, “Urban Screens can be understood in the context of a reinvention of the public sphere and the urban character of cities, based on a well-balanced mix of functions and the idea of the inhabitant as active citizen instead of properly behaving consumer.” (“Urban Screens—The Urbane Potential of Public Screens for Interaction,” www.intelligentagent.com/archive.)

As a consequence, urban screens in public spaces have come to be defined as intelligent architectural surfaces or pixilated architecture, influential in creating a lively urban society and supporting the idea of public space as space for the creation and exchange of culture, strengthening local economy and cultural fabric, and providing local identity.

Permanent big screen cultural initiatives are located in Amsterdam, Berlin, Bremen, Brisbane, Dallas, Manchester, Melbourne, Milan, Munich, and Seoul.

Successful urban screen events include outdoor screenings, international joint broadcasting, and online information platform for networking.

On Monument Square
The role of the public square has often been discussed in urban sociology, and Portland’s Monument Square provides an example of the successful interconnectedness of commerce, culture, politics, and social interactivity. As a public space, Monument Square is perfectly scaled for human interaction. Its architecture—wide ranging in age and style, with a major sculptural presence, offers a sense of local identity. Efforts to enhance commerce and attract community through public events and farmers markets have been aggressively addressed by the City of Portland and Portland Downtown

District. Moreover, plans to designate the Monument Square/ Congress Street area as an Historic District, complementing the existing Arts District, will positively congeal an already strong momentum in creating a square that is a significant place in the city.

Proposal: An Urban Screen on Portland Public Library
Portland Public Library supports the ongoing enhancement of Monument Square as an open public square for civic and cultural engagement and seeks to develop new interactivity between the public and downtown Portland’s Arts District through the renovation of its building which includes plans for the installation of a 17’x 21’ urban screen with live video capabilities on the façade.

The Library’s urban screen will offer important dimensions. Aesthetically, the addition of new digital interactive technologies on international style architecture will crystallize the facade’s dynamism, giving the Library much needed street presence. In practice, the urban screen will greatly enhance the Library’s ability to extend its programmatic outreach to the community.

We believe that the urban screen will also contribute to Portland’s maturity as a lively urban society and will broaden Monument Square as open civic and cultural space by interactively involving the community, including members from our large, racially and ethnically diverse neighborhood. Utilizing city marketing and urban management strategies, the urban screen has the potential of transforming Monument Square into one of America’s great small city public squares and defining Portland as a “Creative City” of global significance, attractive to creative entrepreneurs and tourists from around the world.

Portland Public Library will seek alliances with Portland’s Congress Street institutions to shape the future development of the urban screen within the context of Monument Square as an urban space and as a new art form for creative expression: Children’s Museum of Maine, Maine College of Art, Maine Historical Society, PCA Great Performances, Portland Museum of Art, Portland Ballet, Portland Stage Company, Portland Symphony Orchestra, PORTopera, and SALT Institute for Documentary Studies.

This group will consider Content Management, Curation, Participation of the Local Community, and Technical Requirements.

Portland’s Creative Economy
Portland Public Library’s urban screen will have important ramifications for the recommendations recently proposed by the Creative Economy Steering Committee to Portland City Council, particularly in developing and sustaining Portland’s Arts District (Creative Economy Steering Committee, “Report of Recommendations to the Portland City Council,” October 2008, 14, www.portlandmaine.gov/creativeeconomyreport.pdf).

In fact, the urban screen could be the “tipping point project,” a project identified by the Committee for the Arts District to give the area visibility, connect the cultural institutions, and engage the community (Creative Economy, p. 16).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Sixteen students from Portland High School’s Environmental Science class met at the Library’s Conference Room on Thursday, December 4, 2008, and reviewed the plans for two Green Roofs that will be constructed in the forthcoming renovation. Led by teacher Cyndy Martin and Genetta McLean, the Library’s Capital Campaign Associate, the students discussed the environmental benefits of the Green Roofs, including reducing stormwater runoff into Casco Bay, mitigating urban heat island effect, and reducing the Library’s energy consumption. We welcome Portland High School’s students’ future study of Environmental Science at PPL as the Green Roofs get underway. To learn more about the Library’s Green Initiative Plan.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Energy Saving Strategies and Architectural Design

Thursday, November 13, 2008
The Library Renovation project includes dozens of changes that will dramatically improve the energy performance of the building. Many of these initiatives are outlined in the library's "Green Initiatives" program, which can be found elsewhere on the library's website. I am writing to discuss some other aspects of the project, from the perspective of the architects and engineers working on the design of the renovations.
During the course of our early design work we studied many different strategies to find out which improvements would be most cost effective and yield the best long term energy savings for the City of Portland. We studied one idea that included a 2,000 SF photovoltaic system on the front of the building. We were very excited about this possibility, given the library's south facing front wall, but when we ran the calculations we discovered that even with tax breaks it would take over twenty years to pay for itself. We studied another idea that used a SolarWall metal panel system on top of the stone facing, to generate pre-heated fresh air for the mechanical systems, which are located on the top level of the building. This system worked and had a short payback time, but it covered up a good looking material (the granite veneer) with a not so good looking material (black perforated metal). This idea led us to another, the idea of a solar greenhouse chimney, which you see illustrated on the front of the library in our latest renderings. The tall angled glass curtainwall on the front of the library (the uppermost portion) is actually a greenhouse that generates pre-heated air for the mechanical system. The sun penetrates the single glazing, heats up the air and stone behind it, then rises naturally to the top of the chimney where it is drawn into the air mixing chamber in the mechanical system as heated fresh air. Without this system the cold outside air has to be mechanically pre-heated before it is mixed with the inside air, which uses a lot of energy. The glass curtainwall greenhouse saves enough energy to pay for itself in less than ten years.
One of the most dramatic features of the new library design is the glass curtainwall enclosing the new cafe space. With this glass wall, the space in the front of the library that is currently outdoors will be dramatically transformed into the front living room of the new library, overlooking Congress Street and Monument Square. Visitors to the library will be able to sit in the new cafe, immediately adjacent to the sidewalk on Congress Street, bringing new life and activity to the street. The curtainwall also replaces the original skylights and windows on the front of the building, which were built in the 70's and not as efficient as today's windows and glazing systems. The new enclosure will have high performance, low-E, argon and krypton gas filled insulated glass, which will significantly improve the energy performance of the building overall. Phase One of the library renovation project will replace 40% of all the windows and glazing in the building. Additional window replacement is planned for future phases.
The greatest energy savings will come from replacing the existing electric radiators with high efficiency hydronic baseboard heating along the perimeter walls of the library. New high efficiency boilers will be installed to produce the hot water for this
system. This improvement will produce the greatest energy/cost benefit for the library, and will result in the most noticeable improvement in comfort for the library patrons. We will also be replacing all the lighting in the library, installing motion sensors that will turn the lights off when the rooms aren't occupied, and light sensors to allow the lights to stay off when daylighting is enough to light the space.
Many other energy saving improvements have been included in the design of these renovations. I invite you to visit the "Green Initiatives" section of the Reach for the Stars website to learn more about the project.
Scott Simons

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Campaign to Renovate on Monument Square

Here's how the Act for Libraries Web site describes the campaign to renovate Portland's vital downtown library:

The Main Branch of the Portland Public Library, centrally located at Monument Square, is slated to undergo renovation as a result of the Library's current campaign, Reach for the Stars: The Campaign to Renovate Portland Public Library. The project was mandated by needs identified by Trustees, users and staff that include offering a more rewarding visitor experience and upgrading internal systems.
With a Main Branch, five neighborhood branches, and an outreach services effort, the Portland Library System provides extensive service to the City of Portland and the surrounding Cumberland County. The Library has been in existence since 1867. Like many New England libraries, it is a private nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization funded through public and private contributions. Funding for operations comes primarily (80%) from the City of Portland, with additional support from the State of Maine and Cumberland County. Additional funding is garnered through an active development effort that includes fundraising for the Library’s Endowment, an Annual Campaign and Special Events.
Portland ranks at or near the top for all of the indicators of library quality established by the Maine Office of Library Services. The Library is also designated by the State as an Area Reference and Research Center. It is one of the state’s most active contributors to interlibrary loan, with more than 22,000 transactions in fiscal year 2006.
As the main library for the City of Portland, the library provides a wide array of educational services including early childhood programs, computer training, youth activities, summer reading, film screenings, and civic forums. There is an emphasis on cultural programs and community collaborations, including:
a Brown Bag Lunch speaker series, sponsored by Martin’s Point Health Care, that features regionally and nationally renowned authors
a partnership with the Portland Stage Company to stimulate discussions about mainstage productions;
a partnership with the Portland Symphony Orchestra and the University of Maine School of Music to provide “Musically Speaking” listening programs at the library for young people; and
collaborations with the Maine Humanities Council to offer Poetry Readings and “Let’s Talk about It” book discussions.
The increasing demand for and response to these and other programs was part of the impetus for the Reach for the Stars Campaign. Visitors to the renovated facilities will be able to enjoy programs and find distinct services far more easily and comfortably.

Advocacy Goals
The goal of the Reach for the Stars Campaign is to raise $4.5 M towards the $8.5 M required to complete renovations of the Monument Square facility. $4 M of the funds were raised through a bond passed by City voters in 2004.
Public announcements about the Campaign emphasize the centrality of the library:
The Portland Public Library is the crossroads of our community. The Reach for the Stars Campaign hopes to meet the needs of our constituency as we continue to redefine the role of the library as a vital and exciting cultural institution.
The internal goals for the renovation center around creating a new building culture that will enhance visitors’ experiences by recognizing the social impact of the Library and by creating a “popular library” where heavily used services such as the Sam L. Cohen Children’s Library, the new Teen Center, and the expanded Audio-Visual and popular book collections are grouped together. Areas that focus on quiet research like the Library’s Portland Room and government documents area will retain a separate, quieter atmosphere. Additionally, new meeting rooms and computer learning labs are incorporated into the renovation plans to ensure that the Library can meet the changing needs of the community.

Advocacy Strategy
Private-Sector Fundraising
To achieve its goal, the Library is leveraging and expanding on its capacities for private fundraising. The Library is in the vanguard in this regard. Its Annual Fund goal alone is $100,000 for the current fiscal year, higher than many comparable libraries.
Staff and Trustees of the Portland Public Library understand the role of private funding for an institution with a public mission. According to Stephen J. Podgajny,
The library’s ‘margin of excellence,’ that is, existing beyond the most basic level, rests with our ability to inspire and connect with the private citizens who become financial supporters. Our collections, information resources, and programs are all the result of private donations. Their quality is the direct result of the extent of our private support.
The Reach for the Stars Campaign reflects the library’s sophisticated understanding that public support is the bedrock for private support and—just as Andrew Carnegie established at the turn of the last century— the two go hand-in-hand. The Campaign also reflects the Library’s understanding that the Campaign cannot be at cross purposes with ongoing fund development. They have been careful to coordinate work on the Annual Fund, Special Events and the Endowment.
The Library approached the Campaign carefully, carrying out a prospect review and feasibility study early on. The Board of Trustees has played a critical role in both public and private fundraising efforts. Trustee leadership has in large measure been the reason for success to date. In addition, past Trustees have rallied to the cause and helped identify and develop new prospects.

One of the key challenges for the Trustees was selection of a new Executive Director in early 2006, in the very middle of the Campaign. Their selection, Stephen J. Podgajny, has proven successful. He is providing a new level of energy and direction, which is essential in a director during a Campaign. His enthusiasm for the renovation project and his vision for the Library as Portland’s portal to culture and learning has helped to motivate staff, Board members and donors.
The lack of a Friends group has proven to be a detriment to Portland’s Reach for the Stars Campaign. According to Executive Director Stephen Podgajny, Friends can provide an invaluable kind of assistance and links to the community. Without an official “portfolio,” they can carry out support activities that complement more formal development work and engage committed volunteers in specific projects that benefit the Library in terms of visibility, grassroots support and program funding.
Although the Library’s current facility has served its purpose well since it was built in the late 1970’s, there is a lack of strong public affection for the architecture of the building, which has posed another obstacle for Library staff and volunteers in their fundraising efforts. They have had to learn to communicate effectively about both the inefficiencies and the benefits of the building, as well as convince donors and community advocates to re-invest in the physical space to make it functional and inspiring for 21st century users.

Special collections in the Main Branch's Portland Room include books dating to 1540.
Library officials report that heightened visibility is one beneficial outcome of the Campaign process. This is reflected in growing use as well as increased success in other development areas such as the Annual Fund. Donations to the Annual Fund have increased 45% since the Campaign was announced. As one example, the Library has attracted a Challenge Grant for the Annual Fund from a regional law firm, Verrill Dana LLP; once all contributions have reached $80,000, the Fund will match all additional contributions until the Fund reaches a total of $100,000.
In addition, as a result of the increased visibility, the Library has unexpectedly been offered the chance to acquire an adjacent building, the recently closed Portland Public Market. When the Market was built almost a decade ago, its soaring architecture immediately captured the hearts and imaginations of Portland residents. If the Library is able to obtain the Market, it would be “transformative,” providing the “popular library” with a new home in a well-loved, inspirational public space while remaining centrally located in the heart of the City. Although there is no decision as yet, the Library is committed to remaining nimble in its fundraising and renovation processes in case the opportunity can come to fruition. This new opportunity is another indication of the dynamic quality of library fund development that can lead an institution in new and exciting directions.

Looking Ahead
With their goal of $4.5 M for private fundraising in sight, Library administrators are reflecting on ways to parlay the momentum of the Campaign and the renewed interest of past and new donors into increased usage, expanded programming and collaboration efforts, improvements in the neighborhood branches, and greater visibility on both local and national levels.