PORTLAND – A picture, it’s said, is worth a thousand words, and now a wingback chair could be worth $500.

The VIA Group, the marketing agency that will move into Portland’s old Baxter Library next month, is offering cash to libraries across the nation for chairs with stories.

“Every chair has a story and every library has a story that goes with it,” said Emily Straubel, spokeswoman for VIA, a 17-year-old firm in Portland.

When they couldn’t find the perfect chairs for their new space, company officials decided to seek out library chairs that would fit the character of the elegant Romanesque Revival building, which was built in 1889.

The building on Congress Street was donated to the city by James Phinney Baxter, who was a Portland mayor and philanthropist. It served as the city’s public library until 1979. Northland Enterprises of Portland began a $4.5 million renovation of the property in March.

To participate in the VIA chair project, libraries must be not-for-profit, either public or academic, and fill out a form on VIA’s website at www.vianow.com/librarychairs providing details about each chair. The project will run through Aug. 31.

Any library whose chair is selected will receive $500 for the chair, and VIA will pay to have it shipped to Portland.

Straubel said she isn’t sure how the chairs will be arranged in the new offices, but the stories of the chairs will somehow be displayed, perhaps with plaques nearby.

VIA, which has about 70 employees, is looking for about 25 chairs and has already received a handful of submissions, which are on its Facebook page.

In League City, Texas, librarian Lindsay Faust nominated one of the polka-dot IKEA chairs from the teen area of the Helen Hall Library. The library is replacing chairs and figured VIA could provide a good home for one of the cozy chairs that so often have been filled with relaxing, or sleeping, patrons.

The chair submitted by the El Rito Library in New Mexico represents the financial struggle the library has had.

“It’s beautifully painted and really tells the story in Spanish about the library,” Straubel said.

The wooden chair was painted for a fundraising auction that the library held in December in an effort to make ends meet.

Now, the chair could bring in money at a time when Jim Harford, president of the library’s board of directors, says there’s barely enough cash to keep the library open until September.

“The library really needs money,” he said.


Staff Writer Stephanie Hardiman can be contacted at 791-6301 or at:

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