Hometown Library: Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Maine

By Shannon Viola

This post is the first in a proposed series on the libraries in which SIS students grew up reading and nurturing their love for Information Science. If you are a SIS student who would like to write about your hometown library, send your post to shannon.viola@mail.mcgill.ca to be featured on Beyond the Shelf. 

Brunswick is a small town nestled in the nooks and crannies of the midcoast Maine coastline. Once a mill town and now a thriving small town community, Brunswick is home to artists, Bowdoin College students, and those who love the Maine wilderness. 

I grew up in Brunswick and return during SIS breaks, and when I am home, I always stop at Curtis Memorial Library. The library building consists of the old library, completed in 1904, that has a cozy atmosphere with its grandfather clock, fireplace, and shelves of art history books. The old library is connected to a larger building from 1999 that contains the majority of the library’s collection. I have been checking out books at Curtis since I was a student at St. John’s Catholic School. Because our school did not have its own library, we walked to Curtis to check out two books a week. As a high schooler, I earned volunteer hours shelving books at Curtis and spent afternoons after school reading by the fireplace. As an undergrad and Masters student, I stop by Curtis to finish assignments and read current issues of Time, or to hemorrhage my bank account at Twice Told Tales, the secondhand bookstore founded by Curtis. 

While the Curtis website offers a multitude of information about the library, I interviewed Wynter Giddings, the Manager of Technology and Training, in order to get a deeper understanding of how some of the ideas I’ve learned at SIS operate in a real-world public library. 

In some aspects, Curtis is a typical public library: free wireless, Young Adult and Children’s collections, e-readers available for borrowing, and genealogical records. Yet Ms. Giddings emphasized that community participation is what sets Curtis apart from other libraries in MidCoast Maine. Because of volunteers, the library has been able to conduct outreach to Harpswell, a smaller town bordering Brunswick, to assisted living and senior living facilities, and to the junior high school. Ms. Giddings, as the Manager of Technology and Training, visits a senior living facility with a colleague once a month to teach tech skills, in addition to providing drop-in tech help during the week. 

The reading room in the 1904 library building. Image source.

Community members are able to join Curtis Contemporaries, a patron group that supports advocacy and library stewardship. The Curtis Contemporaries collaborate with library staff to plan events, such as choosing the books for Books and Brews, a library book group hosted at a local brewery, and financially supporting the Collaboratory, an interactive exhibition space at Curtis. A tremendous amount of volunteers who donate time, money, and materials allow Curtis to serve a wider audience with creative solutions to their information needs. 

Serving the Brunswick community also means supporting local artists and writers. Curtis displays books from local writers prominently in the sitting area of the lobby and has a room dedicated to exhibiting works from local artists. The library is decorated with maritime oil paintings and wood relief carvings, and art installations from the Brunswick community. 

Additional Brunswick-specific collections include the Genealogy Room, which provides local histories, directories, and a snow index, and other materials for researchers. Curtis, in collaboration with the Bowdoin College Library and Patten Free Library in Bath, Maine, preserves the Times Record, the Brunswick area newspaper, on microfilm, since the newspaper does not archive their material. Even though Curtis is involved with the digital preservation of the Times Record, the Pejepscot Historical Society and the Bowdoin College Library are involved with the bulk of Brunswick history preservation. 

Curtis even involved the community when they were revamping their strategic planning in 2015. An in-person and online campaign called “10 Days, 100 Great Ideas,” prompted patrons to submit their own ideas for Curtis. At the end of those 10 days, 1,000 ideas were collected, and these ideas were included in the strategic planning process. Free Coffee Fridays and technology support were suggested by the community and implemented by Curtis. 

This focus on community participation is what earned Curtis the title of “Best Library in Maine” by Down East Magazine readers in 2017 and 2018. The library thanked the community for the recognition by hosting a cake and coffee reception. The symbiotic relationship between the library and its community make Curtis Memorial Library a role model for any public library. 

Thank you to Wynter Giddings for taking the time to answer my questions! 

To read more about Curtis Library, click here.

The Dorothy Duncan Fonds

By Shannon Viola

As part of GLIS 641, Archival Description and Access, my peers and I have been tasked with creating finding aids for some of the fonds in McGill’s Rare Books and Archives. My partner, Aeron McHattie, and I have been spending hours in the ROAAr reading room poring over the love letters, typescripts, and scrapbooks of Dorothy Duncan. An American-born Canadian writer, Duncan won the Governor General’s Award for English-language non-fiction in 1946 for Partner in Three Worlds. As I flip through Duncan’s scrapbooks or read her agenda, I feel the presence of a talented, industrious writer who works for the work itself and not for fame—and her claim to fame is often that her husband was Hugh MacLennan, also a writer, and English professor at McGill.

Duncan wrote an article for Maclean’s Magazine in 1945 called “My Author Husband,” a title that seems to overshadow her own work in favor of her husband’s. Duncan writes about her husband’s writing habits, his twofold personality, his dynamism in their twelve years of marriage. She remembers how a newspaper interviewer, who had read neither of their books, wrote that Duncan’s only impetus to write was out of boredom, that she married MacLennan and had nothing else to do in Montreal. Her fonds, however, contains two unpublished novels, written before she married MacLennan. She filled a composition notebook of her favorite quotes and poems in newspapers while she was in high school. Her letters are not the ramblings of a housewife drowning in ennui during a Montreal winter; they are the work of a writer.

Love letters from MacLennan to Duncan, some penned while she was away for the weekend, detail his adoration of her intellect. Duncan’s papers tell the story of their reciprocal admiration and their literary partnership. From the story Duncan’s papers are telling, it is apparent that reading MacLennan is not possible without reading Duncan. In “My Author Husband,” Duncan writes, “It is true that we differ greatly in the nature of our work, but I have still to write a book in which he does not appear.” The love letters from MacLennan echo his wife’s sentiment. If Duncan is remembered as “the wife of Hugh MacLennan,” then it is just as fair for MacLennan to be “the husband of Dorothy Duncan.”

The Dorothy Duncan fonds is available for study in the ROAAr reading room. For opening hours, visit this link.

To read Duncan’s article in Maclean’s, visit this link.

A McGill library search for Duncan’s work can be found here.

Guest Post by Melissa Rivosecchi: Ladies Learning Code

It’s Fall semester, and that means first year SIS students are trying to make it through GLIS 617. Some of you may be breezing through it, while others may be really struggling. Just know that if you’re struggling, it is totally normal; a lot of us second years felt the same way last year.

Hopefully no tears have been shed (it’s not worth it!)


Last Fall, I struggled with 617. I was a mess when it came to trying to solve those questions on the quizzes, yet when I saw the answers I was able to break down the code and understand it. It wasn’t for lack of trying, as I went to all the labs and I asked questions. It felt like my brain just couldn’t grasp being able to write the code from scratch. Thanks to the help of my classmates, I was able to make it through the course. However, because I felt so stressed during that first semester, I don’t feel like I was able to grasp everything I should have from the course.

After Fall semester ended, I was apprehensive about registering for any second year courses that had 617 as a prerequisite. Just before the holiday break, one of my classmates introduced me to Ladies Learning Code (LLC)*, a non-profit group that introduces people to beginner-level technical skills in a collaborative workshop atmosphere. There are chapters set up all across Canada, and the main lab is based in Toronto. The Learning Labs offer various workshops including intro to photoshop, intro to javascript, intro to HTML + CSS, CSS fundamentals for beginners,…and much more.

Last January, a bunch of us gals from class decided to sign up for the one-day Intro to HTML + CSS one-day workshop that was held in Montreal. Lead by industry professionals, every aspect of the workshop was well organized. There is a guaranteed 4:1 (or better) student to mentor ratio and the volunteer mentors sat at each table and were there to help answer any questions. The mentors were knowledgeable, friendly, and willing to help. The workshop gave us hands-on experience; we were guided each step of the way and were given plenty of time to complete each task. By the end of the day we each created our own beautiful web page! Although there was a $50 fee for the workshop, I felt that I totally got my money’s worth. The collaborative, social, positive, and stress-free atmosphere made me realize I wanted to learn more about HTML and gave me the confidence to register for the web design class offered by SIS next winter semester.


Let’s face it: although many of us will probably not end up being programmers, learning basic digital literacy skills like HTML + CSS is an asset when it comes to employment opportunities. Last year, I spoke to one professional who said the web design class at SIS was really helpful because she ended up working in a small town public library where she was responsible for maintaining the library’s website. You don’t have to be an expert, but learning the basics can help show future employers that you are willing to get outside your comfort zone and learn new skills.

I encourage you to check out LLC and if you see a workshop that interests you, get a bunch of your friends together and make a day of it. Going to a workshop like those organized by LLC can open up different possibilities you might not have thought about previously.

Check out this video if you would like to learn more about LLC. You can also subscribe to their mailing list, like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

*Note: men are also welcome to attend the workshops, however LLC asks that, when possible, a female learner be brought to the workshop!

Melissa Rivosecchi

About the author: Melissa Rivosecchi is a second-year MLIS student specializing in librarianship. She is the current president for the Canadian Library Association McGill Student Chapter (CLAMSC), as well as the Chief Returning Officer Parliamentarian for the McGill Information Studies Student Association (MISSA). Her interests include embedded librarianship, GIS, and pizza. 

Favourite Things – Evernote

I know I’ve been neglecting this blog, but I promise I’ve been swamped with readings…and by “swamped” I mean “obsessed with” and by “readings” I mean the Veronica Mars book. Yes. It’s a thing.

This will be a fairly short post and one in which I test out a new idea for the blog: our favourite things at SIS. Unfortunately, this won’t be Oprah style, though I do sincerely wish I could give you all some SUVs. This will be a place where we talk about things we like – apps, authors, websites, stores, publications committee chair people, you name it! I will literally post anything you want to rave about here.

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to my newest crush: Evernote.



My room/life may be a disaster zone, but I really like it when my Internet stuff is organized. I recognize that I’m behind the times on this one, but I’ve tried this personal organization system about a billion times in the past and I’ve never found value in it. However, I had been growing increasingly disillusioned with my own system – a rag tag mix of Pinterest, Google Drive, Gmail, and a mass of files and folders on my desktop. The system was sufficient until school started. But once I started working on school stuff in various locations – school, home, work – and on various devices – laptop, work computer, phone – I was frustrated. There has to be a better way!



Enter Evernote! Evernote allows me to “clip” webpages, PDFs, email threads and more into notes, which I can organize into notebooks (which can be organized further into stacks). Stacks, you guys. This syncs no matter where I’m working – on my phone (app), at work (web version), and at home (desktop version). If you use Chrome, I suggest downloading the Web Clipper extension to make this process even easier. You can also share notebooks with your fellow Information Science nerds friends.

TLDR: Evernote combines the functionality of Google Drive with the bookmarking potential of Pinterest – with the added bonus that Evernote is private, until you decide to share. It’s also easy on the eyes, and allows you to “clip” exactly what you want, including simplified versions of articles.

My advice to make it more functional: the more you use it, the more you’ll like it. Try using it for different areas (school stuff, recipes, articles) and make your notebooks and stacks as granular as you see fit.

While I’m positively smitten now, I’ll admit that my eyes will certainly start to wander upon the release of Google Stars.

Want some further reading? Check out the article that made me try Evernote again: http://lifehacker.com/5989980/ive-been-using-evernote-all-wrong-heres-why-its-actually-amazing.

Anything you guys would like to share? With assignments piling up and this miracle approaching, I think I’ll need your help more than ever.

Blog authors are solely responsible for the content of the blogs listed in the directory. Neither the content of these blogs, nor the links to other web sites, are screened, approved, reviewed or endorsed by McGill University. The text and other material on these blogs are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or information of McGill.