Marsha Kaplan, Barbara Klausmeyer and Lindsay McGuire are such close friends and business partners that they finish one another’s thoughts in conversation. During their weekly meeting to discuss doings at their shop, Left Bank Books in Searsport, the trio spoke animatedly about the lyceum events they set up to keep things stimulating during Maine’s long winter that lingers into spring. The Left Bank Books 2009 Winter Lyceum offers seven Sundays of speakers talking on topics as wide ranging as knitting, the prose of Abraham Lincoln and working in Calcutta with Mother Teresa.
“We set up the lyceum to be a good neighbor, to present something new, interesting and free,” Kaplan said. “It highlights interesting people in the area,” Klausmeyer added. “There are so many fascinating people living amidst us,” she said.
In a move that is unusual for a bookstore, the lyceum events are not tied to particular books, as is the case in typical book signings. This is in part because it is impractical to schedule book signings during Maine’s harsh winters. When authors and participants cannot get to the event because of bad weather, the store is stuck with extra book stock and the expense of returning some books to the publisher.
Nevertheless, it was important to Kaplan, Klausmeyer and McGuire to keep their store a center of activity even when winter storms might be on the horizon. Thus they decided to draw speakers from the local community.
“With each new activity in the store,” Klausmeyer said, “we have two or three new people entering the store. They may not buy anything but the threshold has been crossed. It’s that outreach that the lyceum is accomplishing.”
Surrounded by books on all sorts of topics, inevitably some of the lyceum attendees do make purchases. And many of them become loyal customers of the store, too, choosing to shop there over other stores and online booksellers.
McGuire said Left Bank Books is following in the tradition of the 19th-century American “lyceum movement” that presented intellectually accomplished speakers providing lectures on topics of interest to their communities. “This movement occurred across America, but it also occurred here in Maine,” McGuire said. “We thought, ‘Why not revive that …” she said. “… Especially for the winter,” Kaplan added.
It’s not too late to attend the final event in the 2009 lyceum series. On April 19, Belfast physician David Loxterkamp will talk on the topic of “Miraculous: Looking at a Life Through Medicine.” He will look at what he has learned in 30 years of practicing medicine as a family doctor.
All Left Bank Books 2009 Winter Lyceum events are free and open to the public. They are held at Left Bank Books, 28 East Main St. (Route 1), Searsport. For further information, visit www.leftbankbookshop.com.