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On the Road: Maine State Library

There’s Something About The Maine State Library

For the first time, I visited the Maine State Library and – surprise! – it was fantastic.

My trip was prompted by the latest book chosen for the #AnHistorianReads book club. The library I frequent did not have a copy, and I could not request the book from the Maine State Library (to be delivered to a nearby library they are connected to) without a state library card. So I decided to spend a lovely Saturday morning making the trip up to Augusta (the capital of Maine) to get a card and the book.

Maine State Library | Museum | Archives | Visit Maine

“Trip” here is perhaps too strong of a word, since I’m only a half an hour away from the library. And I’m no stranger to the area; I’ve been to the building that houses the library many times, because our state museum is also in the building. The museum was a hot locale for school field trips when I was young, which is fortunate because the museum is amazing. Plus, the capitol building is on the other side of the small parking lot, which I’ve also visited many times (for school field trips as well as a job interview). Basically, it took me little time to get to the library and I was back home just after noon.

Maine State House | Augusta, Maine | Visit Maine

After taking a few pictures outside – it really was a beautiful day – I went into the building and through the doors marked LIBRARY. The entrance to the building is like a glass atrium. When you walk in you can actually look down onto a section of the library, and if you went through the doors to the right you would be in the museum.

The library is in the bottom level of the building, so after descending the stairs (there are elevators, too), I walked up to the circulation desk, picked up my library card (which I had requested the day before), and wandered through the stacks.

Maine State Library Stacks | Bookshelves

Since the Maine State Library is a research and archival library, the Dewey Decimal System rules the shelves. I’ve always thought it to be more fun to find books in a library that uses the Dewey Decimal System, because it’s an exhilarating challenge with a great prize at the end. Plus, if you don’t write down the complete catalog number on your prepared sticky note or notepad, you may discover a subject or section of books you wouldn’t have necessarily encountered otherwise. I did happen to write down the correct series of number and letters for the books I was seeking, and found them quickly. First, the book for my book club, and second, a fairy tale-related book. This is where I spent most of my hour in the library, browsing the fairy tale books and books with discourse on folklore, taking them off the shelves, thumbing through and reading bits and pieces. Old, historical, FOR LIBRARY USE ONLY books shared the shelves with more modern-bound tomes, tales from all over the world mingled with folklore of Maine and New England. 

Maine State Library Stacks | Folklore I | Fairy Tales

Maine State Library Stacks | Folklore II | Fairy Tales

When I look at the crippling list of books I’d like to read now/this month/this year/in my lifetime, I feel overwhelmed and saddened by my mortality and time restraints. But when I stand in a library surrounded by words bound together and organized by subject matter, I feel so empowered by my child-like wonder at all the knowledge stored on those shelves. It’s the happiest feeling in the world. 

Maine State Library Stacks | Book Collection

Anyway, after a quick walk around the rest of the library to view the computer stations, audiobook shelves, NEW BOOK displays, and seating areas, I checked out my two books and walked back out to my car. Just kidding, I checked out four. 

If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home
Lucy Worsley

This is the current #AnHistorianReads book club book. 

“…this book is a bout far more than the walls, windows, furniture, and appliances that make up a home. Through quirky, fascinating, and seemingly trivial details about domestic life, we can chart revolutionary changes in society.” 

If Walls Could Talk | Lucy Worsley | Book Cover

Clever Maids: The Secret History of The Grimm Fairy Tales
Valerie Paradiž

Besides the book club book above, I also went to the library to find this book. I’ve been researching non-fiction books to supplement my Reading Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales project, and this one really stood out to me (because of the subject matter and book cover). 

“Most people are familiar with the stories of SNOW WHITE and SLEEPING BEAUTY, but very few know that behind the Brothers Grimm and their famous fairy tales stood a network of sisters—and mothers, neighbors, and female friends. In this intimate history, writer and German scholar Valerie Paradiž tells the real story of one of the greatest literary collaborations of the nineteenth century, and gives the long-lost women narrators of our most beloved tales their due.” 

Further Reading: Find my review of this book here

Clever Maids | Valerie Paradiz | Book Cover

Strange Things Sometimes Still Happen: Fairy Tales From Around the World
edited by Angela Carter

I chose this book during my perusal of the Fairy Tale and Folklore shelves because I knew I couldn’t take every book from those shelves home with me. This seems like a good sampling of global tales, which will [hopefully] give me an idea of stories I would like to explore further. 

“With an eye for the bizarre, an ear for the eccentric, and a longstanding fascination with the female dominated tradition of story telling, Carter has chosen forty-five tales from twenty-three cultures that revel in women’s cunning and high spirits, wisdom and imagination.”

Strange Things Sometimes Still Happen | Angela Carter | Book Cover

The Snow Maiden and Other Russian Tales
translated and retold by Bonnie C. Marshall

This is a Libraries Unlimited edition, which features not only Russian tales, but [condensed] Russian history, photos, even recipes and crafts mentioned in some of the tales (all in their own respective sections). 

“In this delightful collection, you’ll find more than thirty Russian tales, including animal tales, fairy tales, tales of everyday life, and tales of the spirit and the supernatural…An outstanding resource for educators, storytellers, and general readers, this is an essential addition to the folklore shelf in school and public libraries.” 

Further Reading: Find my discussion on this book here.

The Snow Maiden and Other Russian Tales | Bonnie C. Marshall | Book Cover

Maine State Library
230 State Street
Augusta, Maine


  • Kristina

    That library is stunning ! I quite like the fact that it’s doubled with a museum :3 our library in my current town is next to our town hall ?? xD like.. that makes less sense to me ahah

    Ah, i’ve never seen anything ordered with the Decimal System.. that looks so wierd, I wonder what gives them what numbers..
    Oh the fairy tales around the world seems so good ! I wonder why I never search more on that stuff x)

    • Kelsey

      Libraries and museums do make such a great pair. 😊

      The Dewey Decimal System numbers are organized by discipline or field of study (or subject). So everything that falls under Literature has a Dewey Decimal number (Call Number) in the 800’s, Technology falls under 600’s, Social Sciences is given 300’s, etc. (everything in the folklore discipline starts with 398.2). The long string of numbers and the occasional letter does make the System look a bit complicated, but when arranged on bookshelves it looks quite tidy. That’s how I see it, anyway. 😉 I became familiar with the Dewey Decimal System when I was in college: my University’s library used the System, so now I feel pretty comfortable using it when I have to (my local libraries arrange books alphabetically).

      And I am definitely on a quest to seek out more books on fairy tales, and more fairy tales themselves. It’s such a fun genre to study and read! ✨

  • Heidi Love

    I live in Maine and was unaware of this treasure. Thanks for the info and engaging post. I shall look up “Strange Things… ” If one can judge a book from a cover, that one is for me. I also love that it has women’s wisdom. Please let me know what you think of it.

    • Kelsey

      Thanks for reading! 😊 That is actually the only one I haven’t yet started. 🤦‍♀️ BUT I will definitely be writing about it when I do finish reading it – stay tuned.

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