Portland Public Library in Portland, Maine is in its second year of organizing POV screenings and discussions. We’ve so enjoyed working with the library (especially Programming Manager Rachael Weyand) and have been impressed by their efforts to involve different Portland-area organizations in their screening series. We recently talked with Rachael about the film series, the library and the Portland community. Interested in attending a screening? Check out the full schedule.

Can you tell us a little bit about Portland, Maine? I stopped through there a few years ago and it seemed like such a neat community!

Portland is a great community! First of all, it’s just a beautiful place to be with the ocean all around and seagulls, tugboats and the historic old buildings that comprise the downtown. To add to that, it’s become a hub of arts and culture which draws hundreds of thousands of people to town throughout the year. Portland is Maine’s largest city and by far the most diverse. We have many residents who come from all over the world and a large African and Middle Eastern refugee population.

The library sits in the middle of all of this great activity on a great city square and really serves as a cultural center for everybody. A few years ago we renovated the space and the result was a very modern, very inviting new library with a glass façade and beautiful, sun-lit spaces for people to read, use a computer, listen to a lecture or see an art show.

Rachael, what do you see as the benefit of programming film screenings in the library? Do documentaries or narratives seem to work better? What kind of programming tends to bring in the biggest crowds?

The benefit to screening the wonderful and thought provoking POV films is two-fold. On one hand, it’s a great program to offer to the community for entertainment and education. It’s a way for us to engage a new audience and to offer something a bit different to people who already participate in our programming. And, we have a discussion after each film which allows people to learn more about the topic as well as hear different perspectives from audience members helping to increase awareness and tolerance. The whole process really helps to encourage civility and civic engagement.

This year Portland Public Library will be partnering with West End Neighborhood Association on a POV screening series. Can you talk a little bit about that partnership and how it came to be?

The West End Neighborhood Association (WENA) is a very active organization and they work out of the Reiche Community Center where we used to have a branch library. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts in 2010 we had to close that branch and the loss was felt strongly in the neighborhood. Since then, we have looked for ways to partner with them and support the neighborhood whenever possible. We have discussed literacy programs with a collaborative group and we keep a reading room stocked there for people to borrow books, participate in the WestFest festival organized by WENA, and will be there regularly with our Portable Library book-mobile when that is up and running. When I saw the president of WENA at the POV screenings we’ve been offering at the Main Library we started talking and thought it might be an interesting experiment to show them at the Reiche Community Center this summer.

Any memorable moment from a POV screening? Something said during a discussion? A favorite partner organization or guest speaker?

I think my favorite pairing was when our Portable Library manager, Steve Weigle, introduced and led the discussion for Biblioburro last year. The message of that film, and the mission behind Luis Soriano’s work was so similar to what we’re trying to provide through the Portable Library but, obviously, worlds apart.

Interested in being a POV Community Partner? It’s easy! Join our Community Network – it’s free.

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POV Staff
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 400 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.