Neighbors: Let’s head to the library — all 3 of them in Montague

  • Carnegie Public Library sits on the corner of Avenue A and 7th Street in Turners Falls. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Millers Falls Library sits on Bridge Street in Millers Falls. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Montague Center Library sits on Center Street in Montague Center. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • FRITZ

Staff Writer
Published: 1/6/2020 9:19:42 PM
Modified: 1/6/2020 9:19:11 PM

Good morning neighbor!

I was thinking about all of the news that came out of Franklin County last year, and how Greenfield Public Library spent a lot of time on our front page. In November, residents approved a new $19.5 million library by a vote of 3,294 to 2,108.

That got me to thinking about all of the wonderful libraries we have in this county. Some are old, some are new, each is as important to its community as the next. Libraries do so much for so many by helping people find jobs, offering materials they need for research and offering tremendous opportunities to learn, to name just a few.

Our libraries also play key roles in our communities’ economies by providing free internet, work spaces for telecommuters and sometimes even training people who are about to be interviewed for a new job. They offer so many free programs for seniors, adults, teens and children, and they are the places to be if you want to run into people you haven’t seen in a while.

Throughout the next year, I’m going to visit all of our libraries and find out a little about each of them. I thought I’d start with Montague public libraries, which consists of Carnegie Library in Turners Falls, Millers Falls Library and Montague Center Library.

I happen to love the historic Carnegie Library, the main branch, though I haven’t been there in years, because I grew up in Turners Falls and spent many, many hours there doing research for school projects. I can see the interior in my mind, and I’ll find out soon if it looks anything like I remember — the exterior certainly does.

I remember as a kid I thought it was the most glorious library I’d ever seen. I loved climbing the stairs to the front door. And once inside, the books. It was like nothing I’d ever seen. I’d sit there for hours, and then take one or two books home. It was built in the early 1900s, so my dad and his family spent a lot of time there, as well. I have many good memories that come from my visits there.

Library Director Linda Hickman wrote a piece for the Greenfield Recorder last year explaining why Montague needs three libraries. She said in the 20-plus years she has worked in the system, she has been asked that question many times, and she explained that the answer is complicated and rooted in the town’s history and geography.

In 1903, Andrew Carnegie gave $13,500 to the town to build the library, and in 1985, the town received an historic preservation grant to restore the exterior of this beautiful building. A ramp was built on the south side of the building in 1997. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Linda said within 15 years of being built, the town realized that Carnegie was too small, but the Carnegie Foundation refused to pay for an expansion. The three libraries were run independently until the 1980s, when they collectively became the Montague Public Libraries, she said. Today, each branch has its own library assistant who works alone, but Carnegie staff fill in as needed, Linda said.

Carnegie has space limitations and accessibility challenges — only the first floor is accessible — and there is no dedicated parking lot for the library, she said. And with other projects having been built or in the process of being built, she doesn’t think an addition or a more modern library building will happen any time soon for Montague. The branch libraries both only have one floor and are more accessible to patrons, Linda said. They also have larger accessible bathrooms.

Linda also said in her piece that while the Carnegie isn’t perfect, it is situated in a very convenient central location across the street from the Food City plaza, enabling many — especially those without transportation — to its use it. The branch libraries are also centrally located in their villages and are accessed by many walkers and bicyclists.

Like all great libraries of today, all three serve many purposes, including as community centers for their towns. In a recent survey, Linda said respondents listed the following less traditional uses as reasons they visit their libraries: computer, WiFi, copier, public bathroom access, programs for children and adults, socializing, time with children/grandchildren, book sales, and being warm in winter and cool in summer.

Montague is a member of the MLS (Massachusetts Library System), which allows patrons to borrow books, CDs, DVDs and tapes from all partner libraries in the system, including most, if not all, libraries in Franklin County and the Pioneer Valley, and they offer year-round and seasonal programs for children and their families, and they’re all free. Every Wednesday, for instance, you can attend Story Time at Carnegie Library from 10:15 to 11:30 a.m. Children of all ages and their families enjoy stories, crafts, music, activities and snacks with Karen Wartel.

Carnegie also offers Homeschool Science on Wednesday at 1 p.m. Home-schooled students of all ages experience hands-on STEM activities. The winter session runs through Feb. 26, and starting this week, Jim Terruso, who worked for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Springfield Science Museum, will offer a four-week series.

Then, on Feb. 5, students will have the opportunity to explore animal homes, food, signs and adaptations for surviving the cold, snowy months with Helen Ann Sephton from the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, and on Feb. 19, Tom Ricardi will visit the library with his birds of prey.

The library also offers music and movement for children. It’s a bilingual (English/Spanish) series with Tom Carroll and Laurie Davidson on Thursdays from 10 to 10:45 a.m. This happens from now through April at Carnegie, May through August in Montague Center and September through December in Millers Falls.

There are also several special programs being offered through February school vacation. There’s going to be a pirate party at Carnegie on Jan. 18 and a Valentine party there on Feb. 8.

The Montague Public Library system, like many libraries in the county, offers one-day museum passes to Springfield Museums, Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, Clark Art Institute and Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra, and it offers a one-day state annual parks pass.

Linda Hickman is library director, while Angela Rovatti-Leonard is youth services librarian and Kathleen Lacey is library technician, so stop by and say “hello.”

And there’s so much more, so go to montaguepubliclibraries.com to find the programs and activities that are right for you and your children.

Millers Falls Library at 23 Bridge St. in Millers Falls is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 7 p.m. (413-659-3801)

Montague Center Library at 17 Center St. in Montague Center is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 2 to 7 p.m. (413-367-2852)

Senior Reporter Anita Fritz grew up in Franklin County after moving from Spokane, Wash., when she was just a few weeks old. She is the West County reporter for the Greenfield Recorder. She covered Greenfield for eight years and has served as features editor for the Recorder and editor for the Athol Daily News.



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