After renovations Arms Library in Shelburne Falls to reopen

  • The domed entrance to the renovated Arms Library in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Allen Davis finds a bright, quiet spot to read in the newly renovated Arms Library. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Assistant Librarian Sharin Alpert and Library Director Laurie Wheeler in the Arms Library in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Library Director Laurie Wheeler in the children’s section on the library’s lower level. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Arms Library in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Assistant librarian Sharin Alpert in the fiction section. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/25/2019 10:57:48 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — After six months of renovations, the Arms Library at Bridge and Main streets will reopen Saturday at 10 a.m.

The two-floor village library, located in the heart of Shelburne Falls, is revitalized with freshly plastered and painted walls, new lights, computer bar and kitchen facility — plus a new children’s section downstairs.

While there are some new amenities, many historical fittings have been retained, including the front desk, tiled floor, fireplaces and curved seats.

This renovation is the second for the library in a few years, after its copper-dome roof was replaced several years ago.

The interior renovation cost roughly $570,000, Arms Library Association Board of Trustees Chair Karen Sheaffer said. The project was funded by multiple grants and donations from local businesses and residents, she said. To offset costs, the Arms Library Association is pursuing a lease of the building from the town to receive $250,000 in state historic tax credits.

The library has had several homes since it was established in 1854 by Major Ira Arms, including Stebbins Block, Bank Block and Memorial Hall. In 1914, the library moved to its current location after it was gifted to the town by Francis Pratt and Lydia Taft.

Efforts to move from the library’s temporary location in Shelburne Falls’ Greenfield Cooperative Bank began earlier in the month. Movers carried boxes of books, most stored in tractor trailers while the space was renovated, into the new library and stacked them on shelves. The library’s director Laurie Wheeler and assistant Sharin Alpert then got to work, arranging nearly 58,000 books in a number of sections: fiction, non-fiction, young adult and children’s among them.

Wheeler hopes the renewed library, and in particular its revamped downstairs kitchen area and meeting room, will encourage other town organizations to congregate there and hold programs. Having a new kitchen facility, for example, will allow event organizers to offer refreshments more easily, she said.

“We’re just trying to open it up more, so that more people will use it,” Wheeler said. “Just more interaction with the community, and I think that will bring more people in and just be able to give more to the community.”

Volunteers are also encouraged to come help at the library as the only paid employees there are Wheeler and Alpert, as well as a high school part-time assistant. The library held a meeting for potential volunteers Wednesday, with a half-dozen residents attending to express an interest, Alpert said. Volunteers can help man the front desk, stock shelves and assist patrons, among other tasks, Wheeler said.

Programs at the library are set to begin on opening day, with a play reading at 6:30 p.m. of the Irish comedy “The Ferryman,” about a family living in rural Northern Ireland in 1981 who are interrupted by a visitor. The library is also offering a string of new programs and events including an author talk, ukulele lessons and a discussion on racism — plus more to come, Wheeler said.

Use of the Arms Library has risen in the past couple of years. Annual circulation for the library was 28,685 in fiscal 2018, up from 25,458 in fiscal 2017. On average, 33 items were circulated per hour according to the state Board of Library Commissioners in 2015.

Alpert said she was surprised by how busy the Arms was when she started working at the library a year and a half ago, calling it the “hub” of the local hilltowns.

“I was so surprised … we literally didn’t have a minute,” Alpert said.

The Arms Library on Bridge and Main streets will reopen this Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Its hours will remain the same: Monday 1 to 7 p.m.,;Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Reach Grace Bird at gbird@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 280.


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