Poster project encourages reading, creates celebrities

17 years ago

    PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – A number of residents in the Star City are becoming “stars” in their own right as posters of librarians, postal workers, child patrons, city councilors, teachers, department heads, teens, and even the city manager now adorn the Mark & Emily Turner Memorial Library.

According to Library Director Sonja Plummer-Morgan, the library purchased software in March from the American Library Association designed to create community posters. Backgrounds and graphics are combined with photos of community members for the posters that encourage literacy and recognize people in the community.
“While it is a promotional tool for the library and enhances visibility,” said Plummer-Morgan, “it also raises awareness for the many leaders and people who contribute in one way or another to the betterment and quality of life in northern Maine.
“It seemed like a wonderful thing to do,” she said. “We wanted to have people from as many different areas in the community. We wanted people from the health care profession, other librarians, school personnel, business and political leaders … trying to get a variety of occupations.”
Since the project began, 15 posters now decorate the library.
“We asked for volunteers,” Plummer-Morgan said. “A lot of people offered to be the subject of a poster; we’re just now getting caught up. Our goal was 20 to begin with, and once those are all done, perhaps we’ll do a few each year. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Paul Hamlin, library trustee, offered to photograph, design and print the posters.
“It’s a Photoshop program with layers which gives you backgrounds, text and borders,” said Hamlin. “I’m interested in photography anyway, so I wanted to see the software. I tried it out and it was fun doing it.”
Hamlin said he got to the point where he was creating his own backgrounds.
“At first I would photograph people against a plain background, extract them from that, and put them in against the background that came with the program,” he said. “Now I’m doing it on my own. By using local people, which we thought would have more impact in promoting the reading program, I try to take their picture using a background that makes sense for them.”
Using a digital camera, Hamlin can create a poster – from start to finish – in a few hours.
“I can take a picture, and get back and have it on the computer within an hour,” he said. “Then in another two to three hours, I can have the project done. The most time-consuming part is finding a suitable background and getting the photos done.”
Hamlin prints the posters on 13-inch by 19-inch paper.
“It’s been a lot of fun, and I feel it’s a contribution to the library,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. People who’ve heard about it are going down to the library to see them. Our goal is to get people into the library and to encourage reading.”
A copy of the poster is given to the subject pictured with the hope they will place the poster in a highly visible location.
“We’re hoping that they put that poster in their office at work or somewhere that other people are going to be able to enjoy,” said Plummer-Morgan.
Presque Isle City Manager Tom Stevens, one of those pictured on a library poster, said he will have his poster “prominently in my office.”
“What a wonderful, creative idea,” he said. “They asked me along the way if I’d be a willing participant, and I said, ‘Yes,’ because I read and utilize the library, plus it’s leading by example. The posters are very attractive, and I think they draw your attention to just what they want it to do … read.
“Libraries are a dynamic institution that do more than just offer books in today’s world, but certainly reading is the cornerstone of their foundation, and this poster project promotes that,” said Stevens. “The posters are one more promotional tool, and if it helps draw anyone to the library, then it’s working. Given the number of people who have been photographed, it shows great support for the library. Sonja and Paul deserve all of the credit. It’s wonderful.”
The library director said patron support for the project has been phenomenal.
“People are pleased with the quality of the posters and the fact that they can relate to and identify the person in the photo,” she said. “Everyone is a potential celebrity, and our patrons really love the posters.”