Announcing changes to the features section

  • Staff image/Andy Castillo—

  • Andy Castillo, features editor Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Features Editor
Published: 5/22/2019 4:00:26 PM

When I was young, my seven brothers and I were voracious readers. We frequented Lilly Library in Florence and the Jones Library in Amherst — arriving with empty laundry baskets, leaving with so many books they wouldn’t all fit.

On many afternoons, I lost myself amid the tall rows of the young adult section, immersed in the adventures of Freddy the Pig, by Walter R. Brooks or the exploits of Martin the Warrior in Brian Jacques’ Redwall Series. I remember fondly the rich scent of those pages and the way my imagination turned into magic.  While sitting cross-legged on the carpet, I fought at Salamandastron mountain alongside the legendary badger queen Lady Cregga Rose Eyes and watched Freddy and Mrs. Wiggins, a cow, solve mysteries on the Bean’s farm.

In many respects, libraries served as a foundation for my education. Yes, I studied the sciences and math and everything else more formally, but nothing sparked my thirst for learning like a trip to the library. Midst the books, I learned to enjoy learning and desire more of it (an asset, I’m convinced, that’s more valuable than anything contained in a textbook).

Last weekend, I graduated from Bay Path University in Longmeadow with an MFA in creative nonfiction. As I walked across the stage at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield, I couldn’t help but remember that young boy sitting among the shelves, lost in a good book. My love for words and stories began there, at the library, and made me who I am today.

As the world turns digital, it’s sometimes easy to overlook a local library’s influence — what’s the point of a brick-and-mortar library when everything is online now? — but its influence is still felt, molding youngsters and adults alike. I believe it will always be there, because, more than a place to find books, libraries are beacons of learning; they're free, accessible, non-partisan. As a child, my family didn’t have a lot of money. There’s no way I could have purchased five books on my own let alone thousands. I was homeschooled and didn’t have immediate access to public school resources. The local library was my resource. 

In my new role as features editor here at the Greenfield Recorder — which I took over recently after writing for the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s feature section, and before that, for this paper as the south county reporter — I wish to elevate the voices and influence of local librarians. I believe that libraries play a formative and important role in our communities, and I think it’s important for them to have a place to share upcoming events and whatever it is they’d like to disseminate. 

To that end, I am changing the ‘Local Library Lowdown’ section. Instead of upcoming event listings, the page (typically in the ‘C2 section) will feature librarians. Each week, on a rotating basis, local librarians will share their thoughts. For example, next week, on the same day and in the same place, expect to see a column by Katherine Hand, director of Sunderland’s public library, on that important role that libraries play in our communities. The week after that, Leverett Public Library will have the floor, and the week after that, someone from the Greenfield Public Library will share their thoughts. Additionally, I will run press releases from libraries here as well. I hope this is both informative and enjoyable.

Additionally, we’ve changed the way event listings are displayed. Instead of hand-writing each listing as we were doing before (a time-consuming and monotonous task), the round-up is now populated with CitySpark entries. From now on, all event listings should be submitted through CitySpark, which can be found on our website,, near the bottom of the page under ‘submit news or announcements.’

For a detailed explanation on submitting to CitySpark, I refer you to a wonderfully informative column by Shelby Ashline, my predecessor, who is now sitting across from me as this paper’s news editor:

If you are a librarian and wish to submit to the new Local Library Lowdown column, or if you have any thoughts about what you’d like to see published in the section as a whole, please send feedback on this new endeavor to or reach out on Twitter, @AndyCCastillo.

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