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


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


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

“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?

Marla McConnellMarla and Terry McConnell have lived in Shelburne Falls since 2006. Marla succumbed to liver disease on July 21, 2017 at the age of 65.Marla could feel the heart of every child she met. She began her professional career in special education. She had the ability to see and understand each child’s unique needs and create unique learning strategies for them. Marla reached each child with art, laughter, and by any other means that could promote their independence.

A creative spirit, Marla liked to have fun, play games, listen to music, discover new words and challenge the boundaries of the possible. As an expert quilter, she translated personalities into color and textures, crafting each gift to reflect its recipient.

Marla wanted every child to feel safe and live in a secure environment. The public library is a safe haven for everyone. As children, colorful storybooks rouse our instinct to reach out and connect with a new world – a world of shapes, letters, words, images and stories. As adults, the public library shelves offer us a window into a world of unlimited knowledge.

Quilt made by Marla McConnellMarla’s family and friends have donated resources to the Arms Library to be used specifically for book and media acquisitions. It is a celebration of Marla’s spirit, extending her belief in library as community to searchers for knowledge of all ages for years to come.

My most common sentiment these days is, “Oh my gosh, so many moving parts!” Day-to-day library services continue, fulfilling needs expressed by library users. (Well, as many needs as we are able to fulfill.) Behind the scenes it is busier than ever, as we ready ourselves for our fall renovation. Our staff, trustees, building committee, Friends group, and architects are gearing up for a new chapter (of course that pun is intended) in our library’s growth.

What is mostly on my mind right now is finding tiny temporary housing for our library. In addition to regular administrative work when the library is closed, we are looking for a space in which to house a portion of our library, and are creating plans to operate our library during the six-eight week period we will be closed in the fall for construction.

In our much, much smaller temporary space we will be doing a “brisk business” in interlibrary loans, offering current fiction and non-fiction books, children’s books, DVDs and audiobooks, and accepting library returns. We of course will be promoting our “sister libraries” of Shelburne Center and Buckland as the great places to browse that they are! We plan to continue to offer our children’s story hour and our Third Friday Open Prose and Poetry. What we are able to offer will depend upon the size of the space we move into.

We have requests out to a number of organizations in town, and are grateful for their consideration of this large and unusual request. Even though our library is small, it’s been described by a representative from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners as “a huge project.”

In a nutshell, the moving parts we need to juggle before we can inhabit our temporary little library include finding the space; moving shelving, selected books, DVDs and movies; moving our telephone and CW/MARS access points; figuring out delivery; publicizing our whereabouts; and keeping the community abreast of progress.

We will be making this transition as clear and easy as possible for you, by posting regularly on Facebook and on our website, posting notices on our spaces to keep you all informed, and by word-of-mouth.

We continue to fundraise, as we head toward our May 12th goal of meeting a Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Foundation matching grant of $266,000. We will continue to raise money after that date, but money given before then is matched dollar for dollar! You may have gotten a letter or two about that.

For those who have already given to our Capital Campaign, thank you so very much!!! Your gifts will be matched as part of this grant.

We are also, for the first time, participating in Valley Gives Day, a day of giving to your favorite organizations throughout the Pioneer Valley. Donations are made online via the Valley Gives page on May 1st. In addition, in our effort to raise the most we can toward this matching grant, we are asking the voters of the Town of Shelburne to approve $50,000, a last portion from the Town, toward our Capital Campaign. Thank you so much for previous years’ votes! Ask us about it when you visit the library or pick up information at the Shelburne Annual Town Meeting. We would love to have your support.

Why so many “moving parts”? After all of our work in the past six years to save the structure of this village cornerstone, we now have the opportunity to improve our functioning by making the inside more streamlined and comfortable for our patrons. The renovation will allow us to provide better service and to be more flexible in our ability to offer diverse programming and use of our space. We can do so much more with these changes! It’s about you, our library users and our future users, it’s about 50 years from now, it’s about 100 years from now. (And remember, in 50-100 years we can open the time capsule we put under the copper dome!)

I love that the Arms Library, such an important part of our town’s history, is planning for our future generations. We will one day became part of their history. Let’s leave them an amazing one!

I wish you well,
Laurie Wheeler

Glimpsing the Deerfield River glinting as it flows over the Potholes on a sunny day is one of my favorite things while working in my office. It’s a timeless, sweet early spring scene. I am always reminded of why I love being here. It’s easy to get lost in the beauty and serenity of our hilltown.

Underneath this surface is a sense of urgency. The Arms Library has long been a place of welcome and acceptance. Here the community may gather together, or in solitude, to pursue education, enlightenment, and accurate, honest information without censorship. The resources public libraries offer are available to all without prejudice to origin, age, background, economics, gender, or viewpoints.

Libraries continue to be the strong, ethical institutions they have been since their inception in this country. At the Arms we have long embraced, as part of our Collection Development Policy, the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read Statement. These two documents are included in our Collection Development Policy, which is currently being revisited by our Arms Library Board of Trustees. A link to the policy will be provided after a revision that more accurately reflects our times. For now, you may visit these two American Library Association documents at the links above.

We have finished our new website, having worked with Anne Campbell, who created and designed it. As part of our new website, I will be writing blogs for our library. Sometimes serious, sometimes playful, at other times a list of what’s new at the library. This first one, as you see, counts as one of the serious ones.

I wish you well,
Laurie Wheeler