Community, Libraries, Ukeleles, and Love

This is beautiful.  I was merely the dude that said “YES, PLEASE DO THIS AND YOU HAVE MY LOVE AND SUPPORT” to Kirsten Cappy and Michael Whittaker, two Portland, Maine colleagues and chums that I’ve worked with in the past.

Any time your library can get 4 ukuleles donated to circulate in your library you’ve won.  Top that off with a ukulele jamboree right in front of the library jamboree with the community and teens and you have something magical.

All of my love, support, and thanks to Kirsten Cappy and Michael Whittaker.  These people are the future of libraries.

Got Uke?  No?  No worries, your library does.


Portland, Maine library card holders can now check out ukuleles and equally hip young adult books from the Teen Room of the Portland Public Library.


Based on a madcap idea by Portland Public Library teen staff member, Michael Whittaker, local businesses Curious City and Moose County Music and Surf teamed up to create a Ukulele Lending Library.  Four ukuleles were donated by Moose County and named by Curious City after teen books in the Portland Public Library collection.


“This is crazy awesome,” says teen librarian Justin Hoenke, “this is a cool example of the community thinking differently about libraries.”


Patrons can check out a bag containing a ukulele, an instructional DVD, a uke chord book, and the novel or non-fiction book the ukulele was named after.


“Ukuleles came into the culture from the Hawaii just like surfing did.  They became the symbol of the cross between music and beach,” says Dana Trumann owner of Old Orchard Beach’s Moose County Music and Surf, “Ukes have had a hipster resurgence and we thought why not bring the instrument from the beach to the library.  It is just one more migration for the funny little instrument.”


Available are the ukuleles entitled “Reunited” (in tune with the novel by Hilary Weisman Graham), “So Punk Rock” (in tune with the graphic novel by Micol and David Ostow),  “Seraphina” (in tune with the award-winning fantasy novel by Rachel Hartman), and “So You Wanna Be a Superstar?” (an audition guide for teens striving for success on any stage).  Each book has music as a central theme.


“Ukuleles are the entry drug to music and performance,” said Portland Public Library staffer Michael Whittaker, ” this program will allow patrons to experiment free of charge.”


Curious City, a Portland-based company that builds programs that allow readers to discover and engage with the books in unique quirky ways, saw the Ukulele Lending Library as a new way for teens to encounter a book.


“Books have a hard road to being found by readers,” said Kirsten Cappy of Curious City, “I want someone to check out a uke on a lark and discover the graphic novel So Punk Rock (about a group of Jewish prep school boys who unwittingly find fame after a ska cover of “Hava Nagilah” at a Bar Mitzvah) kicking around in the bottom of the uke bag.  That, to me, is what literacy should look like.”


The program was launched on April’s First Friday with a 30-member ukulele flash mob of members of PIUKE, the Peaks Island Ukulele Group and the Falmouth Flukes.  Passersby stopped, gaped, and say along to The Beatles’ “Let it Be.”   Teens and adults picked up and plucked the library ukes on display and declared the program, “amazing,” “so cool,” and “only in Portland.”


Curious City hopes the program will not stay “only in Portland” and plans to share the “Got Uke?”  plans with libraries nationwide
PHOTOS!  Look at how glorious this event was:



  1. That. Is. Freaking. AWESOME. What a brilliant idea, and it looks like it’s been very well recieved! Wish I could do something like it at my library. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. I was just in Hanover, New Hampshire and the Howe Library there has ukes for their patrons to take out. In fact, the Ukelele Club was meeting and outside playing across the street from the library. What a cool idea. I’m proud of you, Portland, my home town for inspiring this program to spread.

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