Friday, August 4, 2017

Read in the Sun, in the Shade, in the library

Traveling about New England during the vacation season ...
While visiting friends, I wandered into Provincetown’s public library, seeking both a reprieve from the heat and an exploration. There is some wonderful artwork at the entrance and around the interior; overall, the library is bright and open. Having found a book I wanted to read, I went to the circulation desk, where I learned that I had to have a CLAMS card to take out books. Drat, I thought. What’s that? I thought C/W MARS was everywhere!
Not so. There are several systems.
A CLAMS (Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing) card is good anywhere on the Cape, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The Massachusetts Library System supports it, but the system does not interact with automated systems used throughout the rest of the state. This area’s C/W MARS (Central/Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing) system is the largest, with 152 member libraries, but there are eight more collectives, connecting 417 public and academic libraries, ranging from Greater Boston, Merrimack and the South Shore to more. Belonging to C/W MARS does not provide access to other regions. That’s really only a problem outside your usual environs, as borrowing becomes a problem. Fortunately, libraries often have sale books you can buy.
Closer to home, however, I borrowed two Louise Penny mysteries at Harvard’s beautiful new library, enjoying the look-around as much as the book selection. Library users will find several study areas, quiet and dedicated to their needs, along with a good book selection and spots to sit and read. Better yet, since it’s in the C/W MARS network, I can return the books to my home library in Lancaster, and they’ll be routed back to Harvard. Under this regional system, a member can access 2.5 million books, along with millions of other items, including CDs and DVDs. Book club members are apt to know the system, as they obtain multiple copies of a book for meetings.
Nerd alert here: I love visiting libraries, whether or not I can take out books. One can always sit down to relax and read magazines, do computer research or, in a precious few (West Boylston’s Beaman Library just joined in), find a spot to enjoy coffee or a snack. If in Boston, don’t miss the Boston Public Library on Boylston Street (not a C/W MARS member, but you can get a library card there). Check its website for events and workshops.
I’ve passed several Read It & Reap contributor libraries, not always at the right time to stop in, but I enjoy several: Worcester’s large library offers a cafĂ©, book sales room, meeting spaces and loads of books. Gardner’s Heywood Memorial Library is modern and spacious, with a divided (and supervised) children’s library upstairs. Shirley’s small library offers a peaceful reading area and study tables. Leominster has a gorgeous older library, expanded in 2005-07; it’s full of reading areas, a dozen computer stations and, for teens, a room dedicated in memory of novelist Robert Cormier of Leominster. Lancaster’s Thayer Memorial Library, on the town’s green, offers comfortable leather chairs for kids to curl up in while reading, or for adults in the magazine area. During a recent book sale, kids were able to play mini-golf throughout the building.
Truly, libraries offer a serene spot — albeit sometimes very active in these days of progressive libraries — to get away from it all. They share that with many bookstores.
By the way, stop in to any library for the latest monthly copy of Book Page, a great roundup of what’s new on the book scene.

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