60 Bridge St. * 413-625-0306 * Housed in the historic Pratt Memorial Library Building since 1914

Hours

  • Monday 1–7 pm
  • Wednesday 11 am–7 pm
  • Saturday 10 am–3 pm

Upcoming Events

Story Hour for Preschoolers with Mr. Dave
Date Wednesday, February 26, 2020, 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM

 Join Mr. Dave for an hour of stories, music, movement and crafts every Wednesday morning!

Hours

  • Monday 1–7 pm
  • Wednesday 11 am–7 pm
  • Saturday 10 am–3 pm

It’s rare – and amazing! - to spend a weekend with over 800 librarians. I attended the American Rural and Small Libraries Conference Tap Into Libraries earlier this month. My colleague Karen Stinchfield, of Cushman Library in Bernardston and I drove up together. Over forty presentations were offered; Karen and I each got to twelve of them. We both spent a great deal of time networking, and meeting with library vendors. This piece was originally printed in the Recorder on September 19th, preceded the week before by Karen’s column about the ARSL Conference. Here’s some of what I brought home.

Author and columnist Rebekkah Aldrich Smith (MLS, LEED AP), Executive Director at the Mid-Hudson Library System (NY), was the final keynote speaker at the ARSL. She shared the idea of “hopepunk,” coined on Tumblr in 2017 by fantasy author Alexandra Rowland, who wrote, “Hopepunk is the opposite of grimdark. Pass it on.” Grimdark is all the darkness in the world today. Hopepunk is an active, non-mainstream movement, and a lifestyle. Rebekkah offered the concept in the context of climate change and the role libraries can take to help teach sustainability and hope in the face of coming climate-related changes.

The ARSL Conference is a part of hopepunk. Librarians and libraries, in all of what we do, are too. At the conference, Karen and I networked with hundreds of librarians, sharing and discussing the resources we have to create community, hope, and sustainability.

As librarians we strive to make our libraries flourish. In changing times, this requires adaptability, openness to change, being active and involved at all levels of our communities. We respond to our global ecosystem and global society by beginning right here at home.

According to Aja Romano, culture staff writer for the website Vox (www.vox.com), “Depending on who you ask, hopepunk is as much a mood and a spirit as a definable literary movement, a narrative message of ‘keep fighting, no matter what.’ … Consider the concept of hope itself, with all the implications of love, kindness, and faith in humanity it encompasses... an active political choice, made with full self-awareness that things might be bleak or even frankly hopeless, but you’re going to keep hoping, loving, being kind nonetheless.” 

Another of our four keynote speakers was standup comedian, storyteller and national speaker Susanne Schmidt of NPR’s The Moth radio program. Schmidt asked, “Why tell stories?” Because, she told us, storytelling, sharing the tales of our lives, brings us closer to each other and what we hold dear. In a symbiotic relationship we create our stories and our stories shape us. In turn, we shape our communities, deciding which of our needs will create our social institutions and structures. Some voices are heard, others are not. This is where libraries come in, with our collections, programming, and community activities. Libraries are in the heart of communities and are part of social justice and change.

“Be vulnerable in our storytelling,” said Schmidt. She suggested “Story Slams,” where community members are invited in to tell a story about their lives. This sharing not only documents our histories, but also the fabric of our communities, creating vulnerability and in doing so, bringing us closer together.

   I went to a number of workshops about community, because that is the heart and soul of what we do. I am in love with our hilltowns and our people. I want to do my best for them.

In a presentation called Engage Community and Spark Change, we talked about Community Conversations, facilitated gatherings where a group of people come to together to discuss one pre-determined topic. The library provides a safe space and sense of community in which to discuss sometimes challenging subjects, and the facilitators ensure that the conversation stays on topic. One of the messages of this presentation: Conversations in a face-to-face setting tend to be civil and empathetic, less likely to get bogged down in argument compared to conversations in some other forums.

Looking at how we function in our libraries, I attended Did Slamming Your Head Against the Wall Help? Reframing Issues in Your Library and Community. Workshop leaders Kieran Hixon and Sharon Morris presented a bright new way to look at our libraries. Creativity and inspiration are tools for reframing how we approach our library work. The two gave examples of how we may see a situation in a certain light; we might “frame” the situation in a negative light, defining a problem incorrectly. By looking at the problem in a way “that’s about possibility”, we can be better stewards of our public places, explained Kieran and Sharon. “Go forth and reframe a better world”, they said!

The Hidden Biases of Good People, given by Jean Marie Hellig and Beth Crist, was a surprise to me. I think of myself as having few biases. Apparently they can sneak in to your subconscious levels. Some of them come from direct sources, others vicariously: for example, from social media, news sources, movies, books, etc.

A tool to help identify your biases is Harvard’s Implicit Association Test, at implicit.harvard.edu Biases can include gender, skin tone, religion, age, weight, race, ethnicity, economic status. The list goes on. Without realizing your biases, they could be impacting a library’s customer service, collection development, or reader’s advisory. Steps to tackle your biases? Take the I.A.T, or just think about how you are with people; diversify the people around you; think of positive stereotypes. “Bias cleanse” Hellig and Crist suggested.

Many of the workshops attended are on subjects which I hope to integrate into the Arms Library during the next few years. By resource-sharing, some of the workshops Karen attended are also part of my plans. I loved the idea of coding in our library, and am interested in working to make the upcoming census more successful from our small hilltown library. 

Just beginning our Strategic Planning Process - in which we set goals for the library’s next five years- we will be soliciting ideas from the community as well as introducing some of these new ideas. The conference was a refresher in how to build a better library, a place to network and share ideas with other librarians; it reminded me of the diversity of what a library can offer. Workshops I went to are: Adult Programming: Beg, Borrow, Steal; Book Club Reboot; The Smart Spaces Process: Co-Create and Transform with Your Community; and Libraries and the LGBT+ Experience; Engaging Your Community and Keeping Them; and, Innovation on a Shoestring: Free Tools.

Together, all of these workshops reminded me of the limitlessness of our potential roles in our communities. Rebekkah Aldrich Smith’s message holds true for everything we learned at the conference. She described librarians as “the optimists in our communities” and advocated that we “be active in what we are and what we do.” One of our jobs is to teach sustainable thinking and resiliency, by what we say and do and the choices we make in our libraries. Engage in practices that are environmentally and fiscally sound, and socially equitable. Work within the community and engage with our people, they said.

While understanding globally, think and act locally. “Figure out life in my tiny corner of the world. That makes a difference.” said Smith. One idea she suggested is the creation of a ‘people catalogue”, in which people with various skills are invited to be part of a database of local talents.

A final quote from Smith, “Grow people who can fix our world. We’re playing the long game.” It’s a good reminder of who and what our librarians and libraries can do.

Construction has been going very well, and we expect to be back in our newly renovated library space in mid-April, 2019. For now, you can find us in the meeting room of the Greenfield Cooperative Bank at 33 Bridge Street. They are wonderful hosts!

This is probably waaaay more detail than you might want. I apologize for that, but find this project fascinating! Good people, good project, good future! Every inch of the library space is a work-in-progress. We have a great team of people working in our iconic town building; contractor, subcontractors and architect. D.A. Sullivan is the general contractor (Brandon and his amazing crew) and Jones-Whitsett Architects (George, Kristian and their awesome colleagues.) Add to that Board and Town support, and we are in good hands.

It’s still like magic, watching the daily changes in the library building. Just today the scaffolding in the adult non-fiction room came down, revealing our library’s new Andover Cream walls. (Gone are the two tones of green. Does anyone remember when the walls were painted those colors?) The Andover Cream is especially beautiful with the day’s grand sunshine streaming in. The color has lightened the room, and makes it appear more expansive. Think of how the imagination can soar in a space like this!

Coupled with new lights on top of each book stack, browsing, even during one of our late winter afternoons, will be much easier and more pleasant. Each new light extends over the top shelf, angling the light in the best direction for perusing the books. We have kept the original ceiling lights in adult non-fiction but replaced the bulbs with long-lasting LEDs. A new, more aesthetic set of hanging lights is slated for the front desk. (We’d had a very bright modern, industrial-looking unit there before.)

JRJ Construction, our plasterers, finished up the lathing and plastering work this past week. (Tim and Frank are old-time masters of this kind of work.) Roughened, cracked tender patches of ceiling and wall plaster were taken down and replaced with sturdy new materials. In some spots you could see down to the brickwork or metalwork underneath, before repair. The rotunda, the dome, the two front “corners,” adult non-fiction room ceilings, and director’s office required a good deal of work to repair. To a much lesser extent, repair work was needed in the two upstairs wing rooms. You can check out our Facebook albums to see some of this work. Photos are periodically added.

Constant, steady progress is being made in the areas of electrical wiring, air conditioning and carpentry & woodwork. This work is being done by M.L. Schmitt electricians, Adams Plumbing & Heating, and D.A. Sullivan, respectively.

New outlets have been bravely placed where no outlets had been before (such as in adult non-fiction and at our new computer bars in Young Adult and the meeting room); a new electric panel and lights have been installed in the new staff workroom, the large modern light panels in the upstairs wing rooms are being replaced with energy-efficient, more discreet LED light panels.

Some of the heating and plumbing work is obvious, such as the placement of the mini-splits. Three will be installed upstairs at the base of the walls and two downstairs on the walls. Snaking around behind the scenes, in the hidden storage and furnace rooms, are new controls for the AC system, scads of new piping for the units as well as for a new sink area for the staff and meeting room, and more new electrical wiring.

Outside, in back of the library, the air conditioning condensing unit is being installed, as is its piping leading back into the building. The unit is placed below street level next to the mysterious hole in the brick wall. (Does someone know what it was for? I have theories but would love to hear yours.)

In the works right now are plans to repair cracks in the terrazzo flooring, the ordering of some new shelving and furnishings, preparation for installation of the children’s room flooring, and installation of a sink and cabinets for the staff and meeting rooms. Plumbing and electrical work continue.

Painting has been completed on the lower level. And all that is left upstairs are the walls in the front rooms of the library. The color “Sunrise,” a yellow gold, has been used as an accent in the rotunda and upper panels of the front two wings. (Mike from Baystate Painting has been super.)

We haven’t forgotten the operations of the library in the midst of this work. While all of this is going on, Sharin and I are working on current and future library projects; we are also thinking about putting our new space back together again! Our Board of Trustees and Pratt building committee continue to work on planning for obtaining Historic Tax Credits to help pay for our renovations. We are looking at new signage for our new space; our goal is to make the space more user-friendly in its new incarnation. In the next year we will also begin a new Strategic Library Plan and will need your help with that!

We greatly appreciate your patience. See you soon!

The library is keeping its regular hours, Mon. 1 p.m. – 7 p.m., Wed. 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Please use 413-512-3389 to contact us during the renovation.

The library will still offer interlibrary loans ordering and pick up, a small browsing collection of the latest adult fiction and non-fiction, children’s titles, DVDs, audiobooks, and our regular stash of newspapers and magazines. Books may be dropped off at our temporary location during open library hours, or, when we are closed, in the regular bookdrop beside the library's front steps.

We are encouraging people to make even more use of the interlibrary loan system, our other local libraries, and electronic media during this time period. If anyone needs assistance with any of the systems we are here to help. The bookdrop will be available in its regular spot to the left of the library.

We will periodically post photos on Facebook as the work progresses.

Happy Season of Light!

Very soon we will be moving back home to the newly renovated Pratt Memorial Library Building.

Construction has been going well and we are moving forward on schedule. We slowed down a wee bit when our plasterers found that the ceilings of the rotunda and adult non-fiction area (the large fan-shaped room on the main floor) were in poorer shape than we realized, requiring more extensive work. Still, we expect that the renovation will be finished in late January.

From streetside you can see towering scaffolding through the windows and lights on every weekday. Every inch of the building is a construction zone, undergoing some sort of transformation. If you peek in the bottom windows you will see a temporary construction office and worksite in the Kirby Langford Room.

Not being part of a construction trade, it is amazing to see how each of the spaces is used and how well everyone works around each other. On most days you can expect to see people from D.A. Sullivan (our general contractor), Adams Plumbing & Heating, Baystate Painting, JRJ Plasterers, and M.L. Schmitt electricians.

Progress to date:

Upstairs, the rotunda, including its ornate plasterwork, the upstairs ceilings, and the director’s office ceiling and walls, have had plaster repaired; we have selected our paint colors and look forward to seeing the walls looking fresh and clean. 

Downstairs, most painting is complete and we’ve agreed on flooring choices for the children’s room; construction of brand new meeting and staff rooms is underway; and conduits are being installed for air conditioning and new wiring for the whole building.

It really, truly is in the details. Every larger project requires multiple small decisions. Even with architectural plans that are complete and detailed, when it’s time to actually apply those plans to the building there are always decisions to be made. 

We’re almost there, and we greatly appreciate your patience.

And just as a reminder, the library is keeping its regular hours, Mon. 1 p.m. – 7 p.m., Wed. 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Please use 413-512-3389 to contact us during the renovation.

Less than a week away from now the Arms Library will be on the move! We are temporarily moving to the meeting room of the Greenfield Cooperative Bank, 33 Bridge Street, Shelburne Falls.

The library at its regular location on the corner of Main and Bridge streets will be closed September 24 through January 2019. Regular hours, Mon. 1 p.m. – 7 p.m., Wed. 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Story Hour and Third Friday Open Prose and Poetry will continue throughout the renovation. Telephone numbers will be 413-625-0306 and 413-512-3389, but please try to use the second one.

The library will still offer interlibrary loans ordering and pick up, a small browsing collection of the latest adult fiction and non-fiction, children’s titles, DVDs, audiobooks, and our regular stash of newspapers and magazines. Books may be dropped off at our temporary location during open library hours, or, when we are closed, in the regular bookdrop beside the library's front steps. We even got a little cart for trekking books across the street to the bank.

We are encouraging people to make even more use of the interlibrary loan system, our other local libraries, and electronic media during this time period. We may even have a few Kindles on hand for borrowing so folks can try them out. If anyone needs assistance with any of the systems we are here to help. The bookdrop will be available in its regular spot to the left of the library.

Over the past months we have been cleaning and clearing out spaces, packing offices and small items. We hired a proffessional mover to move out every single book and every piece of furniture. (That's the 24th and 25th.) The library will be almost entirely empty. It has not been that way since 1914!

“We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars....everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings...There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.” –Thornton Wilder, Our Town

Late afternoons this summer, three times each week, the library basement is filled with the sounds of our local theater group, Footlights at the Falls, rehearsing for their September production of Our Town by Thornton Wilder. The play is sweet and rich. Maybe I am a bit romantic, but the lines are timeless, even decades after the play was written. Loving. Aging. Dying. Grieving. Remembering the people whose lives have touched ours. Giving voice to the joy and depth of lives lived fully.

We have the privilege of seeing a lot of living come through our doors at the library. Effortlessly, there is a constant celebration of life, whether people are looking for educational materials or an engaging piece of media, or perhaps, engaging with each other. A music-filled story hour, or maybe stories shared at the desk or in the stacks, or even someone quietly being in the space. Just look at it. Every step is life.

There are those who have lived lives so fully that they remain a part of the library after they have passed. We have many times been remembered by individuals and families who have continued to look after the library after a loved one’s passing. Last July, Marla McConnell’s husband, family and friends from around the country and the world created a fund for the library to purchase new children’s and adult books. Please read about Marla here.

And just over a month ago, Connie Mosher, a long-time friend of the library, passed. Her family and friends have been creating a fund in her memory, remembering a woman full of life, wit, and intelligence.

To both of these fine women, we thank you for the joy you have brought to the lives around you. You are both missed so much, but remain in our memories.

I am writing this blog post amid the familiar sounds of a summer Saturday afternoon at the library. Fans are whirring and there is a steady thump, beep, thump of books, magazines and movies being scanned and taken out, scanned and checked in. The squeak of the curved glass door announces people as they come and go. An animated conversation among several families, parents of teenagers, flows freely in the warm, humid air, and laughter bounces around the front desk and Reading Room from the Children’s Room.

Next year at this time the spaces and energies here will be very different, with all adult fiction upstairs, our children’s space downstairs, and an entirely new young adult area. The air will be more comfortable, too, thanks to our new heating and air conditioning system. All of our spaces will be repaired, patched, and painted. And don’t forget the new energy-efficient windows, modern electric system, and up-to-date technology! All of this is slated to happen during the library’s renovation this fall.

The Arms Library Board of Trustees, Pratt Memorial Library Building Committee, the Town, and our architects are engaged in respectful rehabilitation. The Pratt Building, an iconic historic building built for the library in 1914, has been preserved, its roof and foundation made solid, so it can continue to provide a home for the Arms Library. With the exterior intact thanks to our roof repair in 2015, this coming renovation will bring our inside operations into the 21st century, so we can truly provide our community with up-to-date library services.

So, change is on my mind. This internal renovation is much more extensive and complex than the roof repair. So many moving parts! Besides the actual decision-making (many thanks to the various committees and townspeople tackling those complexities), how does one record what is, before it is not? What are the details of a place in time that we should carry forward, and why? What makes the details important? I have more questions than answers right now.

The last time I did a serious bout of writing was twelve years ago for my thesis at Mount Holyoke College. (I had gone back to school as a Frances Perkins Scholar.) Then, I was writing about the intersections of landscape, place and voice, and human spirit. I hoped to become a writer who, protesting by looking at place, witnessing and describing what I had witnessed, might help to make the world a better place. I’m rusty. It’s been a while. If you continue reading this, please bear with me.

Now seems a good time to pick up writing again, not in protest, but this time as a way to chronicle our library’s changes. By writing what I see now, what we are seeing before and during the upcoming renovation, a trail can, maybe, be left for future generations. At the very least, with this blog, I would like to share what is happening with any current interested audience—including, of course, occasional photographs.

Every time we make an improvement, we are forced to look at past uses and needs. A person who is looking and paying attention to the clues might gain a sense of that time’s thinking. Every time you touch a building you are delving into its past, even as you refashion it to meet the needs of its current and future users.

We’re heading into a renovation that will again alter the library’s landscape. In the last renovation, in 2001, the building was made handicap accessible. An entirely new viable lower level was created out of the large, dark storage basement, with room for adult fiction and the Kirby Langford Meeting Room. Graceful new curving stairs were built, connecting the lower and upper levels of the building, brightened by wide swatches of light, and an elevator installed, making the main level of the building accessible to all.

The paint on the walls of some of the library’s rooms provides an actual example of new layered over old. Local artist Fred Burrington has spotted old raised layers of decorative paint underneath more recent painting in the Reading Room, the current Children’s Room, and the domed rotunda. In these instances the old paint was covered over. There is one rectangular spot, showing beige, brown and light green, left unpainted by the Reading Room fireplace. It is a dream of mine to have one or two of the other patches singled out and highlighted to preserve what was in place before now.

Progress in our building is like those layers of paint. The current need for what is new and most useful is painted over that which has historically served; and it will itself serve as a layer of new history. A new coat of paint sharpens and brightens the present but may lessen or hide the details of the past.

Decisions had to be made each time the building has been altered, repainted, updated, or reorganized. Everything we do is a trade-off. To grow, some things will need to be let go.

Starting in 1914, when the Pratt Building was built, every part of this building was created in response to a need of the era’s inhabitants. The Arms Library Association itself was began in 1854 when Ira Arms and like-minded individuals perceived the need to begin a second library in town in addition to the Shelburne Free Public Library.

People and institutions, we will all keep changing. Our library will continue to grow as a living, breathing cultural institution, a space where people may change and flourish.

In the meantime, I have a request for you. Please consider looking for old, or even not-so-old, photos of the Arms Library. Whether of the outside, or of programs you or your children attended, or of library activities in a bygone era, we’d love to see them or have copies of them. It would be great to have these clues to our past!

In my next blog post…

I am curious about mysteries in the Arms Library’s history. What clues get left behind? What happened to the urn that used to be on top of the roof? Who created the Reading Room murals? What was on the walls? Painted on the dome? What else looked different? Are there photographs? How far back?