Got Uke

Uke LL Program HeadersGot 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.

Ukulele Lending Library

Ukulele Lending 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.

LEARN more about Curious City’s new program UkeLit!

“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.

Ukulele Lending Library

Ukulele Lending Library

“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.”

Ukulele Lending Library Founders Michael Whittaker and Curious City

Ukulele Lending Library Founders Michael Whittaker and Curious City

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.

See the creation of the UkeLit: Rockabilly Goats Gruff!

“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.”

Ukulele Lending Library Patrons

Ukulele Lending Library Patrons

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.

UKE4-2013 – Computer from Jamiepeeps on Vimeo.


  1. Wow! This is amazing! I’m showing it to my public library librarians to see if we can do a similar project. I see Kirsten in these pics!

    • Soon, we will post a guide to how to replicate the project!

  2. Newport was the first public library in the state with a uke group and collection of bar-coded ukes to lend out. That program began 4 years ago. We offered a workshop on the concept at the Maine Library Association state convention in 2013, and provided support to a number of libraries that wanted to adopt the idea. The Sebasticook Ukulele Group ( is now going on 5 years, and still meets twice per month at the Pittsfield Public Library. Welcome to the fold, Portland Public Library – the more, the merrier!


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