Category Archives: Community

The Floating Library

library image

Check it out, readers! The library is going nautical this Saturday, September 6-October 3. Artist Beatrice Glow has initiated a project entitled “The Floating Library,” described here on their website:

” The Floating Free Library is a mobile-device free pop-up public space aboard the historic Lilac Museum Steamship berthed at Pier 25 in Tribeca. The space offers a reading lounge for fearless dreaming under open skies, sound art, free public programming of performances, public debates, roundtables, and more!

Take a look at the website for info on the project, specific events, and ways YOU can help out!


Magna Carta Comes to the Clark

Exciting news! The Magna Carta is coming to the Clark Art Museum in Williamstown, MA in September. This document was foundational in the formation of the U.S., as well as in the writings of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights . As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in his 1941 inaugural address,

“The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase in human history . . . It was written in Magna Carta.”

Not only will the Magna Carta be on display, but the Clark will also be hosting five other historically significant documents in American history : the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

magna carta

Remember, you can pick up a free museum pass to the Clark at our Great Barrington libraries – so come on down!

This I Believe – Patrons Weigh In

This I Believe

In the 1950s, Edward R. Murrow pioneered a five minute radio broadcast on CBS called “This I Believe,” which encouraged people – everyday, famous and anyone in between – to write short essays about their own personal beliefs.

His program was resurrected from 2005-2009 by Jay Ellison and Dan Gediman on NPR, a project which also resulted in a number of book collections – the audio versions of which we have in our library! One patron was so inspired upon listening to these audio collections that she came up to the desk and explained how she had written a piece of her own. Since Linda was open to having her piece shared, it is my very great pleasure to post her beautiful essay on our blog. Enjoy!

“This I believe:

I believe in death. The very thing that sends people into terrified spins is my friend.  I know this sounds weird.
I had a near death experience when I was in my 20’s. A blood clot lodged in my leg after child birth and I took off.
I left my body. I ascended into a space that was so clear and astoundingly bright and beautiful, no words could ever describe this profound experience.
On this amazing journey I was threaded through with major LOVE,  and  remember being transfixed by the grass at my feet which was lit from inside each blade. There was a clear light that also cannot clearly be communicated. It was unbelievably bright but didn’t hurt my eyes.
I saw a tunnel which I did not take it and don’t know why, at which time I was shot back into my body hearing the words: “it’s not your time.”
My body felt so small and confining and I knew something extraordinary had happened to me but it took me years to process it and understand it. This was in the 1960’s when there was no talk of near death experiences. No one to ask. No internet. This amazing and mystical experience just seared into me.  If I live to be 113 I will remember the light, the love and the return trip. This astounding event taught me a new way of seeing life.
The first thing to change was the feeling of being afraid of death. To my way of seeing now, crossing over is a blessing. This  fragile earth we share is school. We are here to learn the big concepts taught in church or synagogue or the mosques such as love, compassion, generosity and forgiveness. That’s our job while we’re in these bodies during this life.
And secondly: For me it was the end of seeing life on earth as a beginning and an end. I see now that we are born and then we die as part of the wheel, part of a continuum. Each life bringing us closer to the ideal.
  And when we finish our lessons and live out whatever time we have here, we get to joyfully reacquaint with your loved ones who have passed before you and those in our soul group including our pets.We shed your body like an old pair of clothes but  our soul and spirit often remain near our loved ones in life.
What I learned is that life goes on. Whether  you’re in spirit on the other side or in your clothes on this side.
This knowledge allows me to live my life with a longer vision in a loving and generous way, unafraid of the eventual “death”
So I believe in death, to wake us up to life.”
A big thank you to Linda Clayton for sharing her beliefs with the library community!!!

U.S. libraries become front line in fight against homelessness


As outlined in this recent article from Reuters, libraries are becoming true community resources when faced with the homelessness that plagues over 600,000 Americans. When one patron suffering from homelessness was asked how often he frequents the library, he replied “”Always. I have nowhere else to go. When it’s hot, you come here to stay out of the heat. When it’s cold, you come here to stay out of the cold.”

What other public institution offers classes to young mothers and their babies, a selection of local history, tech support groups, book clubs, exercise classes, your favorite crime bestsellers, and programs to help people get back on their feet after hard times? These are obviously just a smattering of what is available in a public library; the list of everything  offered there is actually far larger, and changes and adapts based on individual community needs.

I passed by the the public library in Amsterdam, New York today . Above the door the words “Free to all” are carved in stone. When people ask me if I think libraries are still relevant, I always say of course – libraries are public spaces that foster independent thinking and support community members whatever stage or station they occupy . An America in which these spaces are no longer relevant is one that I hope I never see.

You Can Get What at the Library??

beauty and the beast library

Hey there readers!

Sometimes when I say that I work at a library, people are surpised when we get talking about all the things the library has available. “You have more than books?” is a fairly common question. And happily the answer is of course!

At our libraries, we offer passes to local museums, computer classes (for free, of course), bi-monthly movies, meeting rooms available to be booked in advance, two book clubs, and more. Come see for yourself!

For the full list of interesting not-just-book things available at libraries around the U.S., check out this great compilation from USNews.


No Meat, No Problem! – Vegetarian Cooking Class at the Ramsdell


On Wednesday, July 9th, the Ramsdell Library in Housatonic hosted local amateur chef Lia Douillet for the first of a series of vegetarian cooking classes.

Check out what this happy patron had to say about the class!

What I learned at the Ramsdell Library class on vegetarian cooking: 

You can “bloom” curry power in a frying pan.

You can put a dab of cold compound butter on vegetables steamed in miso broth and let it melt like a lump on a Delmonico steak.

Once you have chiffonaded and dressed the raw kale salad, you need to massage it to make the greens submit and not choke you.

How to not curdle the yoghurt you add to the aromatic curried cauliflower.

That when they say finely mince the garlic or ginger, that doesn’t mean you can roughly chop it and call it rustic.

You can cook a whole meal without a kitchen, an oven or a dishwasher (in the library).

Next week: soups, stocks and sauces. There are five spots available for this fun, free class which runs for the next three Wednesdays from 7 to 8pm. Call for reservation: 274-3738

“Get Rid of the Library or We’ll Do it For You”

Remember those Little Free Libraries from a few posts back? Well, they have been popping up all over the country since 2009, and house miniature collections where the only rule is to leave one book for every book taken. Normally they are greeted with enthusiasm, or at worst people don’t notice them, but one city’s reaction to an installed library has been making headlines the last few weeks. Thankfully, a compromise seems to have been reached, but we are surprised that anyone could find an objection to these tiny hubs of information!



The Public Library: A Photographic Essay

Beginning in 1994, Robert Dawson has photographed hundreds of the more than 17,000 libraries across America. As he writes in an article from The Morning News,

…From Alaska to Florida, New England to the West Coast, the photographs reveal a vibrant, essential, yet threatened system.

“A public library can mean different things to different people. For me, the library offers our best example of the public commons. For many, the library upholds the 19th-century belief that the future of democracy is contingent upon an educated citizenry. For others, the library simply means free access to the Internet, or a warm place to take shelter, a chance for an education, or the endless possibilities that jump to life in your imagination the moment you open the cover of a book.”

For further thoughts on the power of the library, take a look at E.B. White’s letter to Margeurite Hart, the first children’s librarian at the Troy Public Library, in 1971.


“Once Forbidden, Books Become A Lifeline For A Young Migrant Worker”

Oh the wonders of npr’s Storycorps! Take a listen to the story of woman who at the age of 8 was working full-time as a migrant worker moving from camp to camp across America. Her life was changed when a Bookmobile made its rounds, and the staffer introduced her to the world of the ibrary. As the storyteller, Storm Reyes, explains

“That taught me that hope was not just a word. And it gave me the courage to leave the camps. That’s where the books made the difference.”

Reyes would later go on to become…a librarian! A fitting ending to the story of a literary life.

Seeds in the Stacks: Libraries Begin Loaning Out Seeds

Thought libraries were just for books? Think again! Three branches of The Durham County Libraries in North Carolina are opening up “seed libraries,” where patrons can check out seeds to plant at home, then return saved seeds from their crops to restock the collection for the next year.

As an article in explains,

With books following card catalogs off paper and into the digital ether, dealing in something tangible like seeds is revitalizing for a public library. Such a program, Abel continues, is a way of “renewing ourselves as a hub of the community.”

How exciting! With these seed catalogs sprouting up, libraries are taking community building to a whole new level.