FOML Good Time in Hallowell

Ask any Maine librarian how many hats they wear and invariably they’ll mention several. One of mine involves my role as former president and current treasurer of Friends of Maine Libraries-FOML. In the 21 years the organization has been in existence, it has awarded more than $20,000 in grants to help various Maine libraries offer services, buy equipment and expand collections in ways their budget couldn’t. The amount and number has varied from year to year, based on what membership dues could fund. FOML has helped buy a large tent to allow a coastal library to have a backup option for programs too big to fit in the library when bad weather threatened to derail the event, bought a WII so teens would find the library an attractive after school hangout and helped renovate drab areas in libraries so little kids could have a cheerful place to enjoy crafts and story hour. The complete list is interesting and very creative.

Grant recipients with FOML President Laurel Parker and 'laid-back' Nancy McGinnis

This year, FOML awarded two grants of $750 at the annual meeting held at Hallowell City Hall on Saturday, September 28th. One winner was Raymond Library’s ‘Just the Facts’, featuring nonfiction books for kids. Librarian Sally Holt had prior experience with the far reaching effects of a FOML grant that was received by the Auburn Public Library when she worked there. Recognizing the amazing wealth of recently published nonfiction books for early readers made her wonder how a focused reading program incorporating them with preschoolers might generate interest in learning while enjoying being read to. Raymond Library’s grant will make that a reality in the coming year.

The other grant went to ‘Reading Rescue: Delivering adventure, one story at a time!’ Lori Littlefield and her husband decided to help kids become book lovers and avoid the ‘summer slide’ away from reading by delivering books to five underserved communities in Franklin County on a repurposed bright red ambulance that carries up to 1200 books for kids of all ages. This is a very important resource in a part of Maine where libraries are small, distant from many kids and open limited hours. Last summer Reading Rescue placed 638 books in the hands of kids who might otherwise have gone an entire summer without reading anything. Now that school has started, the RR folks are hearing from teachers that kids who got books during their break are asking for more. FOML’s grant will help make sure that happens.

Bet this bird regrets signing up

While annual meetings and grant awards are important parts of FOML’s business, members also like to have fun and this year, we did so in spades. Portland area authors and illustrators Scott Nash and Steve Costanza joined us to engage in a draw-off. After sharing some of their background including how they got started and where they get their inspiration, they faced off (so to speak) with pencils, art pads on easels and black sharpies.

Then it was time for members of the audience to offer a challenge: Draw a picture representing up to three objects. I got to go first and asked them to draw a psychotic blueberry arguing with a spider. Scott and Steve were off to the races. For the next hour, they accepted challenges from the audience; a fish wearing a ballet costume riding an elephant, an owl teaching school underwater. Each completed sketch was greeted with laughter, applause and a bit of incredulity. To see more of the pictures from our gathering, check out the Friends of Maine Libraries Facebook page at

Scott explaining his creative strategies while Steve looks on.

Credit for the photos used here and on the FOML facebook page goes to Communicado-Nancy McGinnis, who helped make the event possible and took plenty of great pictures.





Too bad Steve couldn't have fun on Saturday

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4 Responses to FOML Good Time in Hallowell

  1. MCWriTers says:

    As writers, we spend a lot of time in libraries, but never have a full picture of how much librarians are doing “behind the scenes.” This is a very cool post!

    I wish you’d show us a picture of that bright red ambulance, too. And tell us how we can get books we no longer need to reading rescue.


  2. MCWriTers says:

    Kate, I wasn’t able to get a picture of the ambulance (neglected to take my camera that day), but you can contact Reading rescue at

  3. Jeff Cabral says:

    You can see a pic of the RR ambulance and read more about it here:

  4. Linda Lord says:

    Great posting, John. Thank you so much for sharing and congratulations on all the wonderful support for library projects.

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