The golden age of libraries, at least as brick and mortar institutions, is now over. Indeed, it is hard to imagine what role they can play in a world where all the knowledge of all humanity is available to everyone through a device they carry around in their pocket. I doubt libraries will ever completely disappear, surviving in some cases as educational community space or depositories of special collections and historical artifacts. However, most of them will close in the coming years and certainly no community should be investing any serious money into new or existing library buildings. Are you listening Amherst?
I was lucky that I was alive during the golden age of libraries, before the digital revolution altered and diminished their role, so I thought I would list the libraries I have visited and that have influenced my life.
Liberty Street Library
When my father got out of the service and before my parents moved back to their childhood neighborhood of Pine Point, my family lived in Hungry Hill, Springfield's Irish ghetto. It's still a ghetto, but now it's a Spanish one. The nationalities change, but the poor are always with us. I got my first library card in this charming little stone structure, but can barely remember that event or anything about the inside. Despite its official, address based name, everyone always called it the Hungry Hill Library. Today it is a senior center, having closed as a branch library some three years ago.
Pine Point Library
I have fond memories of this longtime Pine Point landmark, especially their summer reading program. It was originally The Boston Road School, which my grandfather attended. The Boston Road School closed as unnecessary after the construction of the Balliet and Dorman Elementary Schools, so the building was converted to a library, a role it played until it was destroyed in a 1970 fire.
A newer but architecturally inferior structure replaced it, but that too is now defunct, closed in the same downsizing of the Springfield Library system that shuttered the Liberty Street branch.
Springfield City Library
My first bus trips downtown as a boy were to this central branch, a beautiful marble structure given to the city by the generous industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The first copying machine I ever used was located in Rice Hall at a time when such technology was new. I liked this library better before the remodeling of a decade or so ago, which improved the interior in some ways but at the loss of some of its former antique charm. Still a great place to spend a rainy afternoon.
Duggan Jr. High Library
This chronically under performing school, lousy even back in my day, actually had a decent library with a good science fiction section which I raided regularly. Today it is one of the Valley's most notorious leftist indoctrination centers, um, I mean, "An Expeditionary Learning Magnet School with a Social Justice Theme" according to their website. While I suppose Duggan must still have a library, I fear that today it is more likely to be filled with political fictions rather than science ones.
High School of Commerce Library
Commerce I love you, but I can't remember your library. I know there must have been one, but apparently I never went to it. I must have been too much into the Commerce social scene, which of course had to be cool if I was a part of it.
When I arrived at UMass in 1976 the library, then known simply as The UMass Library, was only four years old. As a boy, I visited the original Goodell Library, my main memory being the big seats just inside the main entrance on which students lounged and flirted.
The current library is nice, although digitization is causing whole floors to be converted from books to other uses. Ultimately, most floors of the library will probably be converted to housing. Hopefully, the library will someday have its name changed from honoring the Nazi-sympathizing, communist admiring W.E.B. Dubois to someone more worthy of the honor.
Robert Frost Library
I love this beautiful library, named after Amherst's second most famous poet, with no less a dignitary than U.S. President John F. Kennedy presiding at its groundbreaking.
Amherst's main public library is a gorgeous stone structure that should stand for centuries. Unfortunately, misguided do-gooders are currently plotting a major renovation that will significantly alter its historic appearance. Don't do it, Amherst!
This is another wonderful stone structure, whose little known secret is the fascinating Calvin Coolidge Presidential Museum on the second floor (if you can find it open). Fantastic antique paintings can be found throughout the building.
Western New England University D'Amour Library
A modern, well designed library in Springfield, this is a hidden gem gifted by Big Y's D'Amour family, located on the borderline of Pine Point and 16 Acres. Unfortunately, the atmosphere is not very hospitable to non-students.
Springfield Technical Community College Library
Located in one of the original Springfield Armory buildings, this library features brick walls and hardwood floors. I haven't been there in years, but the Men's Room upstairs used to feature cool looking antique urinals. Once again, the library is not very welcoming to non-students.
AIC Shea Library
Despite its location in the heart of Springfield's black ghetto, this is a very functional library with a friendly staff and a surprisingly varied selection. Underutilized by the community, it is worth a visit.
Springfield College Babson Library
A beautiful library that is fully accessible to the public. It also features kinda homoerotic statues of college age athletes.
M.D. Anderson Library - University of Houston
From time to time I have visited my relatives in Texas, although I haven't done so since 2002. Whenever I went, I always visited this architecturally interesting library in Houston. I was looking at the Masslive website on a computer in this library when I first learned that Congressman Edward Boland had died back in Springfield.
So there's some thumbnail sketches of libraries I have known, used and sometimes loved. But don't try to go to the library this weekend. They will all be closed due to Memorial Day.