Stockbridge Library to celebrate 150th

Posted

Saturday March 10, 2012

STOCKBRIDGE -- For one of the county's oldest libraries, the past is about to meet the future.

While exploring a strategic plan based in part on surveys returned by users, Stockbridge Library Director Katherine "Katie" O'Neil and Barbara Allen, curator of the museum and archives housed in the basement of the historic Main Street building, are working on a gala celebration to be held this spring.

"We're a community gathering place, literally in the center of town," O'Neil said.

"We want to include new technology while maintaining the quality library environment that the people of Stockbridge enjoy," she added. "We're balancing the tradition of a small-town library feel with technological needs," such as additional computers and the introduction of e-readers to patrons. The library has WiFi and is training its staff on the use of e-readers.

At the same time, more space is needed to house the library's expanding museum and archive collections. O'Neil is hoping to carve out a dedicated space for programs and community gatherings.

The gala, marking the 150th anniversary of the Stockbridge Library Association's formation as well as the 75th anniversary of the museum-archives, will kick off a two-year series of celebrations culminating in a community party to mark the 1864 opening of the library building.

On June 15, an evening gathering, dubbed "Our 150th Anniversary Gala," will be held at the historic early-18th century Cherry Cottage, situated appropriately at the intersection of Cherry Street and Cherry Hill Road. The house is being painstakingly restored by the current owners, Hans and Kate Morris, with an eye toward authentic detail, said O'Neil.

The private, nonprofit library hopes to raise $25,000 from the event, which will be priced at several levels to make it affordable for supporters and users. It will include food, an open bar, and Civil War-era music performed by the trio Spare Parts, based in Lanesborough.

The town had three small, traveling libraries in the early 1800s, Allen noted, which followed the setup of the Berkshire Republican Library by 25 residents in 1789. The small, early libraries were housed at stores in several town neighborhoods, said Allen.

"It was a cycle in which libraries were replaced by debating societies before people recognized the need to have a townwide library," Allen said. "The main requirement was that it have a home in a building."

The basement museum and archives serve as a repository of town history from its founding by the Stockbridge Munsee band of the Mohican tribe in the mid-1700s and the arrival of the first white settlers, ministers John Sergeant and Jonathan Edwards.

The present-day library remains owned by the Stockbridge Library Association, but gets 45 percent of its current $293,000 annual budget from the town. That share of municipal support has crept up gradually from 33 percent, O'Neil said.

"We definitely have a good relationship with the town. They are supportive and we hope to continue that," said O'Neil.

Part of the library's strategic planning mission, said O'Neil, is to enhance the museum's accessibility, with potential installation of an elevator if funding can be secured. Initial planning is under way through a $6,000 Community Preservation grant; the library is hoping voters will approve a follow-up $24,000 grant at Town Meeting this spring.

Updates to the building's electrical system and redesign of existing space to better serve patrons and accommodate programming for adults and children are also on the library's wish list.

"We're looking for the best way to serve the community in programming of living history," said Allen. "We don't know yet where we're going, but we know where we'd like to be."

To reach Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6247.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto.


By the numbers

Annual budget: $293,000 (45
percent of which is town supported)

Registered borrowers: 1,035

Total circulation: 35,353 (2010-11, all materials)

Annual visitors: 30,407 (2010-11)

Museum-archives: 3,000 people served per year.

Source: Stockbridge Library Association


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