Portsmouth library seeks historical items


PORTSMOUTH — Have an old postcard of the former Bristol Ferry Wharf that your grandmother left behind? Or how about a snapshot of revelers at the former amusement park before the 1938 Hurricane?

Don’t let them sit around gathering dust, abandoned and forgotten. Share them with the world. You can do just that by turning the tables on the folks at the Portsmouth Free Public Library by letting them borrow the items.

“We’re going to start digitizing bits and pieces of the Portsmouth local history collection and then it will be available online,” said Carolyn Magnus, library director.

Creating a local history collection was one of the main goals of the Portsmouth 375th Steering Committee, which organized dozens of events last year to help raise funds for the library.

Ms. Magnus said Richard Talipsky from the committee is talking to The Digital Ark Corporation in Providence about setting up the online digital collection. The library already has many items on hand that it wants to add to the archive, such as those that were in the possession of the late Portsmouth police chief, John T. Pierce, Sr..

“Those things were partially digitized. They’re mainly photographs and postcards — great stuff,” said Ms. Magnus, who would like to see more historical tidbits contributed by residents. “We’re looking for more of that kind of thing — old photographs from the turn of the last century. It’s mostly two-dimensional items we’re looking for.”

Ideally, any item would be of interest to people outside of Portsmouth as well. “Someone from California could take a look at a little slice of Portsmouth history — maybe something about Island Park when it was an amusement park,” she said.

Anyone wishing to share an item should bring it to the library. “Digital Ark are the ones actually scanning it and they’ll have to be taken to Providence to do that,” she said.

National Library Week

In anticipation of National Library Week 2014 (April 13-19), Ms. Magnus also spoke about all the free services and programs offered by the library. Although circulation is down at libraries around the country — “I think nationwide it’s fallen off by 10 percent this past year,” she said — the local library is still a bustling place.

“I think the computers are a draw,” said Ms. Magnus. “We have 18 adult computers and two quiet study rooms, so if you came in with a tutor you could use that. Or if you just want a real quiet place away from your home phone ringing, that’s the place to go. Our computers are up to date and they have Microsoft (Office) suite on them.”

There’s also plenty of programming, for all age ranges.

“We do a Crafty Kids that has kind of an artsy bent to it, and we do preschool reading programs that introduce kids to reading in a fun atmosphere,” she said.

The library also offers plenty of young adult programs. “That particular age group is hard to reach because they’re so busy,” said Ms. Magnus. “They may have an after school job, they have sports, they have band. They’re hard to get in here, but once they come in, I think they’ll realize it’s a fun place to be.”

For adults, there are three reading groups, one of which is going into its seventh year. “You find that people form friendships. It’s not about the book anymore; they ask how each other is doing,” she said.

Genealogy a big draw

The genealogy group which formed four months ago is also a big draw. “Genealogy is huge,” she said. “It’s the number-two hobby after gardening.”

Those who are into genealogy would want to take advantage of the many reference databases the library offers, she said. “One is Ancestry.com and it’s an expensive database to own your own version, but you can come here and get it for free.”

And if you’re looking for a book, CD or a movie but can’t find it on local shelves, you can have titles delivered to the local library through the Interlibrary loan program. “It’s very popular. We push through about 1,000 items a month both going and coming,” said Ms. Magnus.

If you have an e-book reader, the library has plenty of free downloads through E-Zone. “Last month, I think we had 810 borrows, and a year ago it was about 400 and some. It’s getting bigger and bigger,” she said.

Families are also taking advantage of free museum passes, which offer free or discounted admission to local museums and other attractions, such as Battleship Cove.

For more about the library, call 683-9457 or click here.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.