There seem to be so many misconceptions about the Portland Public Library in this dire economic time.

Do the city councilors have such short memories that they have forgotten that two years ago the main library staff was cut by 10 percent instead of the system’s closing down one branch due to flat funding?

The main library is now understaffed because of lack of money.

And of course everyone is confused by the major renovation happening in this economic climate. It actually was conceived at least 10 years ago and the city’s voters approved it about five years ago, before the economy tanked.

The funding for the renovation was completely separate from the operating budget. In retrospect, it was unfortunate timing. The just completed renovation is only the first phase. There is a second phase for which money has to be raised privately.

So, as a part-time Portland library staff member, I see that we need to deal with what we have now, and that is a partially renovated library that is understaffed. It cannot endure any more budget cuts.

Helen Breasted

New Gloucester

In these tough economic times, all kinds of institutions are being forced to make difficult and unpopular decisions. All too often the reaction to the hard choice is to immediately attack the decision and decision-makers.

When faced with flat funding and rising costs, Portland Public Library’s recent proposal to close three of its lesser-used branches in favor of normal hours at the newly restored main library has been met with personal attacks and suspicion.

The board and library administration have been vilified by some City Council members who, in a “we’ll show them!” response, have proposed to match every dollar saved by the library with an equal cut.

The words are coupled with innuendo that those on the independent board of trustees are doing this because they are not sympathetic the needs of the elderly and the poor.

Call me naive, but I think that people who work and volunteer for libraries tend to do things for the common good. And as difficult a choice as this is, the alternatives (all branches limping along on reduced schedules and inadequate funding) are even worse.

It seems to be impossible to cut anything in Portland. I would like to see all the city’s services remain at their current levels. But in the absence of new funds, we need to think differently about how best to go forward.

Consolidating services is something that needs to be seriously considered. Attempts to deal strategically with reduced funds should not be met with fury. Whether it was last year’s proposed consolidation of voting places, the elimination of an elementary school, or this most recent issue of cutting some library branches, city administrators are ordered to cut — but then hung out to dry by grandstanding elected officials when they do.

Blunt, across-the-board reductions are not sustainable, and do nothing to solve the problem of underused facilities and inadequate funding.

Portland needs reasoned discussion and actual leadership, rather than knee-jerk divisiveness around these issues. With the opening of a beautiful new facility that will serve the entire city, this is a great moment for the library system.

While the proposed reductions are terrible, they seem to be best option among many bad alternatives.

Tamara Risser


As a regular patron of the downtown Portland Library, (even though I live within close proximity to the Burbank branch), I recognize the value local libraries provide for citizens.

But based on the information provided in the April 10 article as well as previous articles on this topic, it appears to be a wise and necessary step for the city of Portland to close some of the branch libraries.

I agree with Steve Podgajny, the library system’s executive director. Improve the service and expand the hours of the beautiful main branch.

With the substantial investment we’ve all made in that branch, it only makes sense to do so.

Deborah Napier


Portland’s trash system costs more than others

I understand Portland is raising the trash bag fees to $1 per bag. Trash pickup involves two or three persons, including the truck driver.

The city should adopt the system used by Scarborough for its trash pickup. Each homeowner has two barrels, one for trash and one for recycling.

The weekly pickup requires only the truck and its driver. There is no debris from trash awaiting pickup caused by wind, animals, etc. Residents who generate excessive trash can arrange for additional barrels as necessary.

John Barritt


Preble Street, church both get what they want

Perhaps a final word on the Preble Street program losing its funds from Catholic Charities Maine (Bill Nemitz, April 11): Sometimes out of a “bad” situation, some good can emerge. Seems that under a certain contract, the Diocese of Portland was right in withholding funds.

We all live daily with rules, laws, etc., that have consequences, yet some people feel compelled always to find fault with the bishop and the church. Having said that, now comes the “good” in the story. How wonderful all this money has come to Preble Street now.

The governor is getting into it, too! Where was Donald Sussman with his $17,000 check years ago and funds from “all over?” (And where was the governor then?)

Maybe if they all came around with all this money, Catholic Charities could have put thousands of dollars into other needy programs! Will they all come forward next year?

So far, this looks like a win-win for everyone.

Mary Connolly

South Portland

Newspaper’s photographers produce wonderful images

Kudos to the Portland Press Herald and its staff photographers for continuously providing us with wonderful shots of our beautiful city and environs.

While sitting down to breakfast March 24, my eyes were delighted as I unfurled the paper from its plastic rain bag. The front page photo (looking down on a person with an umbrella walking by a circular grate around a tree on a brick sidewalk) by John Patriquin is a gem!

Gunnel Larsdotter

Peaks Island


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