2012-03-30 / Community

Library concludes first Life 101 series

By Kristy Wagner Staff Writer

Bret LeBleu, of Callahan and LeBeleu Landscapes in South Portland, gives a lecture for the South Portland Public Library’s new Life 101 series. (Kristy Wagner photo) Bret LeBleu, of Callahan and LeBeleu Landscapes in South Portland, gives a lecture for the South Portland Public Library’s new Life 101 series. (Kristy Wagner photo) Most people go through life these days with only the Internet to guide them through their hobbies, activities, home improvement, etc. Very rarely do people have the opportunity to benefit from professional assistance and instruction by trained professionals.

The South Portland Public Library personnel has organized and brainstormed since December to change that. The result is the South Portland Public Library’s Life 101 lecture series for adults, which just finished its inaugural month last week.

“Basically, what it is, is a mini-series of three programs over the course of one month,” said Susan Samberg, deputy director of the library.

The South Portland Public Library already offers ongoing adult programs such as KnitChat, Socrates Cafe and Writer’s Group.

“We’ve had programs before, but mainly authors and music and other ongoing programs like book groups and writing groups,” Samberg said. “We just wanted to start offering something new and have more of a presence in the community.”

Committee members Samberg, Lisa Joyce, Tyla Schaefer and Joyce Doyle made the free program a reality after Library Director Kevin Davis commissioned the group to brainstorm ideas for new adult offerings at the library.

“We were hoping to do (Life 101) on topics pertinent to the interests of the community,” Samberg said. “Overall, what we wanted to do was to have a theme to connect everything together.”

Publicizing the new series was key to reaching out to the community, said Samberg, who used the library’s Facebook page to let people know the series was being offered.

The series was also listed on the library’s website and printed on the calendar for people to take home with them.

“The group tonight has a blog that was linked to the (library website),” Samberg said.

The first installment of Life 101, titled “Landscape Architecture,” opened with a panel discussion that covered the library’s new landscaping project. The following two workshops covered vegetable gardening in small spaces and sustainable coastal gardens in Maine.

“We didn’t want to target a specific group, so we tried to focus on life improvement,” Joyce said.

Samberg said the committee tried to choose local, regional and state presenters for the new lecture series.

“We are hoping for a mix of authors, artists, professionals, and even city government people as well,” she said.

Samberg said because the library was able to attract accomplished speakers for the first three lectures, it helped greatly in the success of Life 101.

“(Vegetable gardening in small spaces) had Tom Atwell and he was great. I am not a gardener at all and he made me want to garden,” Samberg said.

Atwell writes a column for a local newspaper and is a well known Maine gardener.

The lecture on vegetable gardening drew a crowd of more than 40 people, Samberg said.

“About half of the people in the room had never even been to the library before,” said Joyce, who added the professionals who lecture volunteer their time to participate in the evening series.

“Volunteer speakers very kindly come in and do this because they are excited to be a part of the community,” she said.

Last week’s lecture, “Made in Maine: Sustainable Coastal Gardens,” featured Catherine Callahan and Bret LeBleu, landscape architects at Callahan and LeBleu Landscapes in South Portland. The pair focused on residential garden designs that support environmental sustainability. The lecture lasted about an hour and a half. The pair answered questions at the end of the presentation, which included slides to illustrate designs and concepts discussed by Callahan and LeBleu. Nineteen people attended the presentation and many took notes throughout.

“Our next Life 101 series is going to be in May and will be about Maine,” Samberg said. “Right now we have Margaret Hathaway, who’s doing a food lover’s guide to Maine and then Dena Riegel who’s doing “staycations” in Maine,” Samberg said.

Riegel is a locally published author and Hathaway is a food expert, author and owner of Ten Apple Farm in Gray.

“In September we’re going to do a series on budgeting and maybe get someone who does coupons because that’s very big right now,” Samberg said.

Samberg and Joyce said the library hopes to host up to four Life 101 lecture series per year.

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