September is National Library Card Sign Up Month!

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This September, the Berkshire Athenaeum is pleased to be joining with Downtown Pittsfield and libraries across the country for National Library Card Sign-up Month! This month, we are encouraging everyone in our community to obtain a free library card that will save them money while reaping incredible rewards. Existing library card holders are also able to benefit from the rewards offered this month, and we ask that you to bring a friend along to sign up for a free library card so that way they can enjoy the same benefits too!

To help us celebrate, local Pittsfield businesses are teaming up for the whole month of September to offer residents discounts, prizes, and/or freebies on meals and purchases when they show their library card at checkout.

Stop by these businesses right here in downtown Pittsfield with your library card for INCREDIBLE discounts:

If enjoying extra discounts at many of Pittsfield’s best local spots, the Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum are hosting a raffle. During the month of September, if you sign up for a card, renew an expired card, or refer someone to get a card, you will be entered into the Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum’s raffle to win a Kindle Fire 8 HD prize. Only One Raffle Ticket per Person.

Background & History of National Library Card Month

As explained by ALA, “National Library Card month is a national initiative lead and coordinated by the American Library Association (ALA). Since 1987, Library Card Sign-up Month has been held each September to mark the beginning of the school year. Libraries work to remind parents and youth that signing up for a library card is the first step towards academic achievement and lifelong learning.

“Throughout the school year, public librarians and library staff will assist parents and caregivers with saving hundreds of dollars on educational resources and services for students. From free access to STEAM programs/activities, educational apps, in-person and virtual homework help, technology workshops to the expertise of librarians, a library card is one of the most cost effective back to school supplies available.


“This September Disney Pixar’s superhero family, the Incredibles, will team up with the ALA to promote the value of a library card. As honorary chairs, the Incredibles will remind families, students and people of all ages that signing up for a library card is a great step toward a truly super lifestyle: libraries offer fun and informative resources to help you pursue your passions and succeed in school.

“How much money can you save?  Visit the ALA’s Library Value Calculator to total your savings.

“The American Library Association is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, the ALA has been the trusted voice of libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit”


Don’t have a library card? No problem. Stop by the Library with a photo ID and proof of your current address to learn about all the wonderful resources your library card provides!

The Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield’s Public Library expresses its gratitude to the Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum, Downtown Pittsfield and all participating businesses in supporting this program!

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Genealogy for Beginners


The Berkshire Athenaeum Local History Department has announced a schedule of Genealogy Classes for Beginners.

  • September 27, 2018 10am-12pm: Organizing your Family Research and Introduction to the Census
    Learn suggestions on organizing your family research, along with what a census is and how to glean information from it.

  • October 4, 2018 10am-12pm: Using Vital Records/Beginning Immigration Research
    Learn how to navigate through various vital record sites, as well as how to begin research on your immigrant ancestor.

  • October 11, 2018 10am-12pm: Introduction to is a database to help you discover your family history and build a family tree with the world’s largest genealogy website. Search birth records, census data, obituaries and more!

  • October 18, 2018 10am-12pm: Introduction to is a resource to learn more about family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years.

Class instructors will be library volunteers, Janet Rogge and Angela Rifkin, along with Vera Silvia. Class is sponsored by The Berkshire Athenaeum and The Berkshire Family History Association. Limited to 10 participants. Classes are free and open to the public.

Registration is now open. Register online at under Calendar of Events or contact the Local History Department at 499-9480 x6. Classes book quickly, so sign up now!!

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Pittsfield Baseball Document

Baseball is the talk of the town! We have seen an increased interest and questions from Pittsfielders surrounding the Berkshire Athenaeum’s “Baseball Document.” The story about this document uncovered by Berkshire Athenaeum goes back nearly 14 years! In April 2004, Pittsfield received national publicity for a 1791 bylaw, which is believed to be the earliest written reference to baseball in North America. Our Local History & Genealogy Department maintains and preserves the original baseball document and town records in their collection. The town record and document is currently on display in the Blake Reading Room for library patrons to view; a copy of the transcription is available on the library website.

The history of this document is significant and of interest to baseball fans. The document was written in September of 1791 by Woodbridge Little, the first lawyer in Pittsfield and long-time town selectman. This is the original document presented for a vote at the town meeting of September 5, 1791 for the purpose of creating a bylaw that would insure the protection of the windows of the new meeting house, soon to be built. (This would have been the Congregational Church, designed by renowned architect Charles Bulfinch in 1789 and completed in 1793.)


#XVIII. A #10 of the Town of Pittsfield, Original Papers
Dated September 5, 1791. Bylaw to prevent damage to new meeting
house windows: no ball games within eighty yards of the building.

The original document shows evidence of having been folded, with the word “Recorded”written on the back. Normal procedure would have been to store the original in some type of a docket envelope and record the new bylaw in the town record book. This is precisely the procedure followed in this case, as is confirmed by consulting Book 2 of the Pittsfield Town Books, where a “true copy” was entered under the date of September 5, 1791 by town clerk Joshua Danforth. This town book remains in the possession of the Pittsfield City Clerk to this day.

At some point in time, the original document, along with close to 1000 others with dates ranging from 1739 – 1843 were affixed into a large ledger volume using a form of tape (this is not scotch tape) or small metal straight pins. Many other documents in this collection bear the same tape residue seen on the right hand side of this document. At some point during the first half of the twentieth century, this book of original documents was transferred from the Pittsfield City Clerk to the Berkshire Athenaeum, where Local History Librarian Fanny Clark (who retired in 1956) compiled a partial index to the documents. In 1988 Athenaeum staff, in a first step toward archival preservation, removed these documents from the ledger book, carefully maintaining the original order, and re-housed them in archival folders and document storage boxes.

In the fall of 1998, Berkshire Athenaeum librarians created an item level annotated guide to the collection, with each document being assigned a unique number for identification purposes.

In the spring of 1999, with funding provided through an LSTA Grant administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, the Athenaeum commissioned the microfilming of this entire collection to assure the permanent preservation and protection of the original documents while simultaneously facilitating future public access to the wealth of information they contain.

It is certain that Joseph E A Smith quoted from this document in the first volume of the History of Pittsfield, published in 1869 (p. 447). Whether he consulted the original documents, the Record Books, or both in his research is unknown; but he definitely used at least one of these sources.

In 1972, Edward R. Knurow, during the course of his research into the Record Books at City Hall, copied this document along with several others outlining the construction of the Meeting House. Knurow’s manuscript books are now in the possession of the Berkshire Athenaeum where this record can be found in Volume # 33, p 573 – 574.

During 1999, while the collection of Original Pittsfield Papers was being prepared for microfilming, the Berkshire Family History Association was also indexing this volume of Knurow’s materials. The material concerning the Meeting House having been noted in both of these sources, the reference was published in the Winter 2000 edition of the Berkshire Genealogist (Vol. 21, No. 1, P. 36) with the following editorial comment included:

“According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, ‘It was in Cooperstown, New York, in the summer of 1839, that Abner Doubleday was alleged to have laid out the first baseball field and conducted the first game of baseball ever played.’ Could Pittsfield have jumped the historical gun by over 48 years?”

During your next visit to your favorite library, be sure to enjoy this one of a kind document on America’s favorite past-time! For further information about Pittsfield’s 1791 Baseball Bylaw, please contact the Berkshire Athenaeum’s Local History Department at (413) 499-9480 ext 204 during regular library hours or directly at

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We honor the Pittsfield Americans!


“Pittsfield is our home, and when one of us does well, we want to celebrate that to the fullest,” says Mayor Linda Tyer. We agree!

The Library’s Main Floor Reading Room offers a display honoring the Pittsfield Americans, our winning Little League World Series team, with a large print photo, courtesy of the Berkshire Eagle.

The Athenaeum has a great affection for the National Pastime, being in possession of what is arguably the earliest origin document for the sport, an authenticated 1791 bylaw proscribing baseball play in the vicinity of the then-new Meeting House.


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StoryWalk: Saturday, July 21, 10 am – 1 pm


Explore the city with us Saturday, July 21, at the Downtown Pittsfield StoryWalk. Start at the Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market anytime between 10AM and 1PM and grab a map of the route. The first 75 kids who stop by will receive  a free copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar coloring book, generously donated by Berkshire United Way.

Take a stroll through Downtown Pittsfield while reading each page with your friends and family and end at the Berkshire Athenaeum for a book tote making party!

Thank you to InterprintThe Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and Downtown Pittsfield for their generous support. See you there!

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Summer Reading: It’s not just for kids!


The Berkshire Athenaeum Circulation Department is pleased to announce that Summer Reading Bingo for Adults has returned for 2018. The program runs from Thursday, June 28, through Friday, August 17.

How does this work? Ask for a Bingo Card at the Main Circulation Desk.

  • One book or activity = one bingo square.
  • Return completed cards to the Main Circulation Desk.
  • Every time you turn in a completed card you receive an incentive reward from our Friend’s Store.
  • Complete as many CARDS as you like.

At the end of the program, each person who has turned in a completed BINGO CARD(S) will be automatically registered for our READING RAFFLE!

Our Raffle prize is:  a one year membership to our Friends organization OR a Friend’s book bag.  Five raffle prizes will be awarded.

Looking for reading suggestions? Reading lists  are available for many different fiction genres, such as mysteries, thrillers or romance.

  • Search for fiction and non-fiction titles or do subject searches in our online catalog.
  • Stop by our Reference Desk for assistance.

Summer Reading Bingo for Adults is sponsored by the Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum, the Massachusetts Library System, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and the Boston Bruins.









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The Dance Center of the nation is only a bus ride away!


The Pittsfield-Pillow Express stops here!  Free round-trip bus transportation between Pittsfield and Jacob’s Pillow: the dance center of the nation is only a bus ride away!

Saturdays | June 23-August 25, 2018

Pickups at 12:25 pm & 3:25 pm
Drop-offs at 4:40 pm & 8:05 pm

Did you know?

You can reserve FREE Saturday Matinee tickets and a seat on the bus thanks to the Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum. Reservations for tickets can be made through the Children’s Library (413-499-9480). Tickets that are picked up to FREE Jacob’s Pillow performances are available only to families who are attending the performance by the Pittsfield-Pillow Express.

Ask a librarian for more information. Subject to availability. | 413.207.4082

To reserve a spot on the Pittsfield-Pillow Express and to learn more about affordable options to visit Jacob’s Pillow:

The Pittsfield-Pillow Express is made possible by a generous donation from a Trustee of Jacob’s Pillow.


Posted in Children's Library, Family Events, Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum, outreach, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment