Cinema of Law returns: Tuesdays in March, 6 pm


The Cinema of Law returns for a ninth year, providing screening of films on legal topics with  commentary by law professionals.  Presentations by local attorneys begin at 6 p.m. and the movies follow. Join us for one or more – or the full series!

March 3 Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood (2008)
Attorney Lou Oggiani, speaker
A documentary about the history of the Hays Code, a set of moral guidelines instituted in 1930 by a watchdog group led by a former U. S. Postmaster General. In 1915, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that free speech protection did not extend to motion pictures, and this set the stage for the industry to police itself until the Court overturned the decision in 1952.

March 10 Runaway Jury (2003)
Attorney Michael McCarthy, speaker
Based on a novel by John Grisham, this is a film that examines the integrity of our jury system at a time when Massachusetts is about to introduce attorney and self-represented party participation in juror voir dire.

March 17 Rashomon (1950)
Honorable Joan McMenemy, speaker
Directed by Akira Kurosawa, this tale presents four witnesses’ accounts of a rape and murder that took place in a forest, each presenting a different point of view. The film examines how truth is viewed through different lenses, and the Judge will speak to this from her experience on the bench and as a prosecutor.

March 24 The Rape of Europa (2006)
Attorney Paul Rapp, speaker
A documentary which tells the story of “the systematic theft, deliberate destruction and miraculous survival of Europe’s art treasures during the Third Reich and the Second World War.” Paul Rapp is an adjunct professor of copyright and art and entertainment law at the Albany Law School.

A Collaboration

Cinema of Law exists due to the planning of Barbara Schneider and Gary Smith, Law Librarians of the Berkshire Trial Court Law Library. Gary and Barbara choose films which touch upon a point of law. Next they recruit volunteers from the Berkshire Bar Association to comment on the points of law portrayed in the films. The third organization instrumental in bringing the very popular series to the public is the Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum who purchase the DVDs and the performance rights for each film. These DVDs will be added to the library collection after each featured performance.

Attention College Students: The Cinema of Law screenings have been recognized by Berkshire Community College as acceptable for Forum Credit.

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Full STEAM Ahead in the Athenaeum Children’s Library!

STEAM-Logo_Main (2)We are excited to announce  our Children’s Library has been awarded a “Full STEAM Ahead” grant by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC). The $7,500 grant, funded under the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA),  promotes libraries working within their community toward increasing children’s interest and skills in the important areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.


Athenaeum librarians are designing a STEAM activity station in the Children’s Library. (You may have already noticed that some  furniture has been rearranged in preparation!)  Moving forward, library staff will be collaborating with early childhood specialists in the community to incorporate more programming designed around the STEAM curriculum.

While families with young children are primarily targeted for these services, library staff are also reaching out to childhood educators with information about new  circulating STEAM programming kits stocked with books, music and learning activities intended for infants, toddlers and  early elementary school  students.

Be sure to stop in often and see the progress that is being made!

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Teen Book Giveaway Week: February 9 – February 14

Teens choose their free book from a selection available in our Young Adults Department

Teens choose their free book from a selection available in our Young Adults Department

Be ready for winter reading opportunities! During Teen Book Giveaway Week, Monday, February 9 through Saturday, February 14, stop in and grab a book or magazine from the free table in the Young Adults Department. We will offer paperbacks, popular titles, new and next-to-new. Limit one free item per teen.

Sponsored by the Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum.

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Spring Genealogy Classes Announced

genealogy_treeThe Local History Department has announced the following schedule of spring Genealogy Classes.
Three Workshop sessions for Novices:

  • March 12, Thursday:
    10-12: Organizing your records and planning your research/Introduction to the Census
    1-3: Repeat of morning session
  • March 19, Thursday:
    10-12: Using Vital Records/Beginning Immigration Research
    1-3: Repeat of morning session
  • March 26, Thursday:
    10-12: Introduction to
    1-3: Repeat of morning session

Instructors for these sessions will be Janet Rogge and Angela Rifkin, along with Vera Silva. It is highly recommended to attend all three session to get the most out of the classes. Please specify a time. You may bring your own laptop or use a library one.

4-week Workshop on Continuing your Genealogy Research using the Census and other Resources

Over 4 consecutive Tuesdays March 31st, April 7th, 14th, and 21nd. Instructor Alan Horbal will present techniques for continuing to pursue your genealogical research. Participants may choose either a morning session [10AM to noon] or an afternoon session [1PM – 3 PM]. You must have an established email as a pre-requisite for these sessions. We ask that you attend all four classes. You may bring your own laptop or use a library one.

Registration opens February 1st. Register online at (on the Calendar of Events page on the Berkshire Athenaeum website) or call the Local History Department at 499-9480 x6.

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Get a charge out of this!

courtesy station

The Athenaeum is pleased to announce a new amenity: personal devices and phones can be charged onsite using a  Courtesy Charging Station. Installed in  the library’s Food Zone, the freestanding, ADA compliant unit  provides 8 charging connectors (2 Apple Lightning; 2 Apple 30-pin; 3 micro USB; and 1 mini USB) centralized on a unit designed to charge a variety of devices and hold the devices on a supporting shelf.


The Courtesy Charging Station was purchased by the Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum, an all-volunteer organization with over  75 years of service to Pittsfield’s Public Library. Reference Librarian Madeline Kelly observes,  “We are routinely visited by patrons who need to charge their phone. This new Charging Station offers the most commonly used connectors and eliminates the safety hazard of adapter cords running across public areas. We’re so pleased the Friends stepped in, once again, to make this possible.”

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Voice your support for library funding and other important municipal services!

surveyThe city of Pittsfield has opened a survey seeking public input on community needs. Information gathered from this survey is incorporated into the city’s 5-year plan. The survey, which is named “CDBG Public Survey” is available online from the city’s website Paper copies are being made available from a number of community organizations.

Voice your support for library funding and other important municipal services!  Complete the survey, posted on the city’s website, accessed by following the link labeled CDBG PUBLIC SURVEY. Deadline: March 1, 2015

More information available:

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New Colonial Theatre History Available at the Athenaeum!!

Colonial Theatre

After more than a dozen years of exhaustive research by a team of dedicated authors, the History of the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, Massachusetts has been published in both hardcover and paperback editions. Copies of the 524 page, beautifully illustrated hardcover edition have been donated to the Athenaeum by the authors, the late Anne Everest Wojtkowski, Robert M. Boland, Jeffry Alan Bradway and William F. Munn, and are available for use in the Local History Department. Circulating copies of the paperback edition are available for patrons to checkout.

From the Introduction:
“This book tells the unusual story of how and why the Colonial Theatre came to be built in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 1903 and also of the unique set of circumstances that allowed it to survive the onslaught of movies, television, urban renewal and all the other threats to its existence from twentieth century events. …. The Colonial Theatre stands today as a survivor of times long gone by – a reminder of the people who built it, performed in it, and preserved it. This book tells the story of this remarkable structure.”

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