Portland's Riverton library, once eyed for closing, now adds hours

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PORTLAND — The Riverton branch of the city’s public library is expanding its operations to include Saturday hours, marking a turnaround for the branch since it was scheduled to close two years ago.

Starting Oct. 6, the Riverton branch will be open on Saturdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., in addition to the 20 hours per week it already operates.

One of four branches, it is located at 1600 Forest Ave., in the Riverton School and Community Center.

The expansion is a sign of the Portland Public Library’s commitment to the neighborhood, Executive Director Steve Podgajny said.

“We’re in Riverton for the long haul,” Podgajny said. “We want to be there, the neighborhood wants us to be there, and the city wants us to be there.”

As a cost-cutting measure, the library considered closing the Riverton branch in 2010, along with branches on Munjoy Hill and in the West End. In their place, plans called for offering more “portable library” services, which would bring library resources and staff to community centers throughout the city.

But neighborhood residents protested. Ultimately, the City Council offered $90,000 in additional funding to keep the Riverton branch open for a year, while the other two branches were shuttered.

Last year, the council again increased library funding by roughly the same amount. With the additional funds, the library was able to make physical renovations, including expanded seating, reorganized stacks and greater access to computerized media.

The additional hours are a “natural fit” because the Riverton center is already popular with neighborhood residents on the weekend, according to Podgajny. But the hours represent little extra cost because the library will staff them by deploying employees more efficiently, he said.

Podgajny said he expects the branch to become more popular as a result of the additional hours, lending as many as 70,000 items per year, up from its current level of about 60,000.

Meanwhile, plans continue for the portable library.

The library system will unveil plans in the next couple weeks for a new vehicle that will visit community centers throughout the city, according to Podgajny.

He noted that the vehicle will allow the library to serve neighborhoods it has never reached, such as East Deering, as well as areas no longer served, such as Munjoy Hill.

Designs for the vehicle are still being finalized, but besides lending materials, it will offer residents access to library services and technology.

“We’re very excited,” he said. “It’s much more than a bookmobile.”

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or whall@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.