For further information and entertaining reading, see Martha Greene’s A History of the Bushnell-Sage Library available for sale at the Library.
According to A History of the Bushnell-Sage Library by Martha Greene, the public library in Sheffield has moved all over town. In 1876, when the town meeting voted to institute the first free town library, the library committee housed it above where Silk’s Variety is now. Three years later, the townspeople voted the library out of existence. The Sheffield Friendly Union took responsibility for the books until 1891, when interest in a tax supported public library revived and the public library shared space with the Friendly Union library in the Dewey Memorial Hall.
In 1901, the trustees of the library moved the collection to two rooms in the town hall. When a library trustee, Miss Alice B. Sage, died in 1921, she bequeathed $10,000 to the town for the building of a free public library. Two years later a library patron, Samuel Hopkins Bushnell, passed away, leaving another bequest of $25,000. With this money, the town erected a building on the corner of Main Street and what is now Berkshire School Road. When the space for 10,000 books became inadequate in 1936, an extra room was built onto the back of the building.<
The expanding collection soon crowded that building. Then, in 1993, the Americans with Disabilities Act, requiring that all public buildings be made accessible to everyone, made the building obsolete. That same year, the last students left the old Sheffield Center School for the new Undermountain Elementary School. With grant money and generous contributions from local citizens, the building was renovated and converted to serve as the new library building in 1997.
In the 130 years the Sheffield Town Library has existed, there have been very few librarians. Eugene Vosburgh acted as librarian for one dollar a week when the library opened above his store. Mary Leonard became the librarian for both the Dewey Hall Library and the public library when the collection moved to Dewey Hall. There have been only three librarians since the library moved into its own building in 1929; Willard French (1929-1973), John Campbell (1973-2000), Nancy Hahn (2001-2012), and Karen Lindquist (2013-present).
Set well back from Route 7, the library is a cheerful and vibrant place, full of light and bustle. Comfortable seating areas are scattered throughout the building. The circulation desk, public-use computer terminals, new fiction and non-fiction books, video sections, the periodicals and the delightful children’s wing are all located on the main floor. The other fiction and non-fiction books and audio book stacks are on the second floor. The basement houses a large meeting room and kitchen facilities. There is ample parking space in front of the library building.
Many people have told us that the Bushnell-Sage Library is one of the best small town libraries in Massachusetts. Visit us and find out why!