Seeking hidden and unexpected libraries

Thursday August 30, 2012

They’re in your neighborhoods, found in front yards and even tucked into laboratories.

Libraries are everywhere in Berkshire County, but they may not look and feel like the Berkshire Athenaeum or the kinds of libraries and media centers you see in schools.

According to the Massa chu setts Board of Library Com missioners data base, there are 70 registered school, academic and specialty libraries in Berkshire County. According to the listing, only the towns of New Ashford and Washington lack a public library.

But beyond these collections, there are several privately operated collections that are available to public perusal.

Caitlin and Gary Pemble, for example, have a library in their front yard.

A refurbished cupboard, ap proximately three feet tall and two feet wide, is nailed to a tree in front of their home and farm stand at 787 Pecks Road in Pittsfield.

Fixed to the top of the cupboard is a wooden plaque that reads: "Take a Book. Return a Book. Little Free Library. Char ter Number 0913."

"I heard about Little Free Libraries while listening to NPR," said Caitlin Pemble, referring to a March 7, 2012 broadcast by Kristen Durst for the program "All Things Con sidered."

The Little Free Library movement is a grassroots international program with a mission to build free book exchanges and a sense of good neighboring and "to build more than 2,510 libraries around the world -- more than Andrew Carnegie -- and then more," according to its website. Hundreds of Little Free Libraries have been established in North America, Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe.

"We thought it was a really cool idea to encourage literacy and community building," Pemble said.

In August, their collection included about a dozen books ranging from a book about beekeeping to bestseller "The Hunger Games."

According to the organization’s interactive map of registered Little Free Libraries, there are seven in Mas sachu setts, including the Pembles’ and one managed by steward Justin Adkins at 74 Linden St. in Williamstown.

Adkins has an online Face book page for his library. It’s called the Kropotkin Memorial Library -- named in honor of the Russian activist and anarchist Prince Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin -- and primarily contains texts relating to revolution, gender and sexuality.

Beyond the Little Free Li brary frontier, the are a number of other special libraries hiding in the nooks of Berkshire County.

The Marketplace Café on North Street in Pittsfield has a book shelf mounted near the storefront window that customers can browse, borrow and add to.

Alice Trumball, co-founder and executive director of Mo ments House on Fenn Street in Pittsfield, hosts a very special collection of books and leaflets.

"We have a lending library here for anyone impacted by cancer. There’s a children’s section with books about if a friend or family member gets cancer. We have books on specific types of cancers, life after surviving cancer, books for caregivers and books on grieving," Trumball said.

The book case is located in a small room within the facility, with soft lamplight. There, people can go in to read, sit or simply think.

The Moments House collection includes more than 60 titles, many of which Trumball said are hard to find readily available in book stores. Book donations and suggested titles are always welcomed.

"People can come in and read or borrow a book as long as they want. If they really need it, they can buy it from us and we’ll purchase a new one for the library," Trumball said.


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