The Portland Public Library and other libraries across the state are collecting and archiving stories about the personal impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. File photo

PORTLAND — For years 150 years, it has been a place to go to get stories, but through a partnership with the Maine State Library and other area libraries, the Portland Public Library is looking to compile the stories of others.

The library has launched “Isolating Together,” an online archive reflecting how residents have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The project is being funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

“This will be such an important thing to have 20 years from now, 50 years from now or 100 years from now,” said Janet McKenney, director of library development for the Maine State Library.

Members of the public are encouraged to submit their stories, reflections, photos, videos, audio and other original work reflecting how the pandemic has changed their daily lives, said Abraham Schechter, Portland Public Library’s special collections archivist.

While the pandemic’s greater impact easily will become part of history, “the smaller personal and community impacts” are also important, said Thompson Free Library Director Greta Schroeder, who is helping to coordinate the archiving effort.

“Those may be lost if they are not recorded,” she said.


A similar effort, “How’s Your Week Going?” has been underway at the Patten Free Library since March.

“The goal is to create a record that future historians can look back on to understand what people on the ground were experiencing,” said Jill Piekut Roy, Patten’s archivist and special collections librarian.

While the archives will aid future historians, “it is also to support our patrons of today because it is helpful to have an opportunity to reflect on what you are experiencing,” she said.

The Bath library’s archive includes poetry, personal narratives and photographs, as well as items from To Sail Once Again, a project at Morse High School in which seniors were invited to create a piece of work that represents hope, strength and resiliency.

Schechter and Schroeder said many of the items reflect how much people miss the social aspect that working from home, sheltering in place and socially distancing during the pandemic has prevented.

“People are really missing that in-person contact. There’s been a lot about friends and family and how we are having to visit with them in different ways,” Schroeder said.


“Living in isolation is not the norm,” Schechter said. “By contributing to something like this, I think helps to connect people.”

Schechter, Schroeder and Roy said they have not set a deadline for submissions.

“We are still just five months into this. I think there will be a lot of retrospective reflection along the way,” Schechter said.

Schroeder said she would like to get students involved when schools reopen by having them conduct interviews with family members and others members of their community.

Libraries are not the only group that is collecting items to archive for future generations to study what it was like to live through the coronavirus pandemic. The University of Southern Maine is organizing “Signs of the Times: Documenting Covid-19 Signs in Southern Maine” and the Maine Memory Network is collecting oral stories about the pandemic through its My Maine Stories initiative. The University of Maine System has also set up an archive to reflect how the virus has impacted students on campuses across the state.

Materials for the Portland Public Library archive can be submitted by emailing [email protected] or at Those wishing to add to the Patten Free Public Library archive can do so by emailing [email protected] or visiting

Comments are not available on this story.