Berkshire Athenaeum now allows food

As published in Berkshire Magazine, Holiday 2014

Photo by Carrie Snyder

Photo by Carrie Snyder

In the age of Barnes & Noble and Starbucks, books and coffee have become an inseparable pair. But at the Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield’s public library, supervisor of reference services Madeline Kelly was often tasked with informing people that refreshments were not allowed. “People had to either toss their snack or leave,” she says, “and we felt it would be a more positive experience if we could say to folks, ‘Look, you can have that’ and point them to a particular area.”

Last winter, Kelly joined forces with Athenaeum executive director Ron Latham to conduct a “food zone” experiment, designating a section of the reading room as food-friendly and surveying library patrons—who answered with a resounding “Yes!” The next step was design and construction, says Latham. “We wanted it to be sort of functional, funky, and inviting to spend some time there.” Working closely with a designer, the team came up with a modern space featuring a new tiled floor; sleek, metal café-style tables; and comfy chairs for lounging.

While the library does not serve its own coffee, to-go snacks and drinks are found in all four directions of the library—including Dottie’s Coffee Lounge and Marketplace Café on North Street, Juice N’ Java on South Street, and Otto’s Breakfast & Deli on East Street.

Berkshire Athenaeum
1 Wendell Ave.,
Pittsfield, MA