Gazette Op/Ed: Celebrating the oak trees in front of Forbes Library

by Lilly Lombard

The iconic row of shade trees lining the front of Forbes Library is grand and stately like the building itself.

In 1897, four years after the library’s completion, one of Forbes’ founding trustees, Arthur Watson, planted 13 pin oak trees precisely along the property line, fulfilling the Greek proverb, “A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.”

Indeed, over the 20th century, the trees reached skyward, spread their shady limbs, and gradually became the defining feature of the library’s inviting grounds. As they grew, their trunks swelled onto the public right of way, legally converting the oaks to “public shade trees” protected under Massachusetts General Law 87.

It is hard to overstate the emotional impact these trees have had on library patrons, pedestrians and neighbors over the decades. As a longtime citizen tree advocate and now chair of Northampton’s Public Shade Tree Commission, I hear regularly how beloved these trees are, how much they enhance our sense of place, and how saddened people are about their recent, obvious decline.

The library staff and trustees also feel the loss. Forbes Library Director Lisa Downing said, “We see the property as an extension of the library itself and are very sad to lose these gorgeous shade trees that have been a part of the library’s history practically since the beginning.”

My first encounter with these majestic oaks is as memorable as it was transformative. Sixteen years ago, weary of our shallow-rooted life in suburban Washington, D.C., my young family went “community shopping” throughout New England to find a better place to settle.

In every town we visited, we spent time in the children’s section of the public library and asked fellow parents what they valued in their community. After such a visit to Forbes, I vividly remember lying on the library lawn with my infant daughter, staring in wonder at the column of mighty oaks, and having instant clarity of thought, “I want to live in a place where people value trees like these and a library like this.” Six months later, Northampton became our permanent home. Today, Forbes remains tied for first place on my teenage kids’ list of favorite places in town.

Tragically, in 2006, the Forbes Library oaks sustained critical root damage when the state widened Route 66, an action that is allowable under the law. Local tree advocates wrung our hands helplessly as we witnessed the careless shredding of major roots and the removal and compaction by heavy machinery of the trees’ life-supporting soil.

I remember one arborist friend shaking his head at the sight and saying, “I’ll give those trees five years.” Well, most have lived 10 more years, but their rapid decline is unmistakable. Three dying trees have already been removed, and half of the remaining trees are clearly terminal. They have dropped large limbs over the public sidewalk, lawn and road, creating unsafe conditions.

After extensive evaluation, Northampton’s tree warden, Richard Parasiliti, is recommending that five of the remaining oaks be immediately removed. He has scheduled a public tree hearing at 6 p.m. Sept. 13, 2017, at the site of the trees, giving the community an opportunity to share feelings about the removals and to hear a more in-depth explanation from our tree warden why the trees must go.

Thankfully, members of Northampton’s Public Shade Tree Commission, the trustees of Forbes, our city’s tree warden, and Mayor David Narkewicz strongly agree that we should replace the dying pin oaks as soon as possible with a new generation of shade trees.

We have selected scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea) as the replacement species because of its many strengths: it is urban tolerant, has no serious pests, has bright red autumn foliage, and assumes a tall, spreading canopy at full maturity. Further, its native range extends from Mississippi to Maine. Thus, as the planet warms, scarlet oaks should continue to tolerate the climate of our western Massachusetts city.

This fall — stay tuned for the date — we enthusiastically invite members of the public to help us plant eight young scarlet oaks, returning us to the original 13 oaks that lined our library’s sidewalk. A final benefit of scarlet oaks: they are fast growing, which means that, unlike Forbes Trustee Arthur Watson, we just may live to sit in the shade of these magnificent trees.

Lilly Lombard, of Northampton, chairs the city’s Public Shade Tree Commission.

Franklin Hampshire Career Center Partners with Forbes Library for Satellite Services

The Franklin Hampshire Career Center and Forbes Library announce a partnership to provide Career Center satellite services at the Library. The Career Center will out-station staff on a weekly basis at the Library to continue providing Employment Services to job seekers in Hampshire County. Loss in federal funding is requiring the Northampton Career Center to merge its two full service career centers.

Lisa Downing, Forbes Library Director said “As the city’s public library, we are delighted to be able to provide a venue for the Career Center to continue offering core services in Northampton. We strive to support the community’s information needs in both traditional and innovative ways and this partnership will do just that. We see this as a way for the public to continue to have access to employment and training assistance that our community needs and will use it as an opportunity to introduce the library’s great services to an expanded audience.”

Career Center Executive Director, Teri Anderson, stated “We are excited to collaborate with Forbes Library on our first satellite service location in Hampshire County. Our overlapping mission, the generous use of space, and the easily accessible location all make the Library a good fit.” “We are grateful to the Library staff and board for welcoming us into their space. The Library satellite location will go a long way in retaining essential career services after the Northampton full service Career Center merges with the Greenfield office. Hampshire County residents that have difficulty getting to Greenfield should talk with Career Center staff. We will work with customers to find solutions to ensure they can receive services,” she said.

The Northampton office will close on August 25 and staff will move into the Greenfield office the following week. The Greenfield Career Center will be closed on Monday, August 28 for the move to take place. Full services will resume at the Greenfield Career Center on Tuesday, August 29. Out-stationed Career Center services will begin at Forbes the week of September 11th. Career Center Services to be provided at the Library include:

  • Mondays 9am-4pm: Assistance with Online Unemployment Claims – Mornings will be walk-in assistance on a first come first serve basis. Customers will be able to make appointments in the afternoon or walk-in if there are openings available.
  • Mondays and Wednesdays 9am-Noon: Career Center registration and online job search assistance in the Library Computer Area.
  • Wednesdays 1pm-2pm: Career Center Seminar introduction to Career Center services.
  • Thursdays 1pm-3pm in the Community Room: Workshops with rotating topics such as resume and cover letter writing, using LinkedIn, Online job applications, and interviewing skills.
  • Tuesdays once per month will be an information session to learn about subsidized job training programs and individualized career counseling.

Anderson also noted that Career Center Veteran’s employment services will still be available at various locations in Hampshire County. Veterans should contact the Veterans Employment Representative at the Greenfield Career Center.

Information about how to take advantage of Career Center services offered at Forbes Library can be found on the Franklin Hampshire Career Center website at: or by calling the Career Center at 413-774-4361. Event information will be posted on the Forbes Library website at:

Come with or without glasses to the Eclipse Viewing Party

Forbes Library has a limited number of eclipse viewing glasses set aside for families that have pre-registered for the Scientific Kids Club on Monday, August 21 at 2:00 PM. A limited additional number may be available for people who come to the event who haven’t pre-registered. Everyone is welcome to join the party, despite the fact that we won’t have glasses for everyone.

Staff members Ralph and Steven will be on hand to answer questions and help people to make simple pinhole viewing projectors, which are another way to safely enjoy the eclipse.

For more information about pinhole projectors visit has more information about safe viewing.

New streaming film database: Kanopy

Looking for something good to watch tonight? Forbes Library is excited to announce the addition of a new streaming film database, Kanopy, to our digital collection. We are the first public library in C/W MARS and one of only a few in the state to offer this service to our patrons.

All Forbes Library cardholders can now access Kanopy and watch popular films and documentaries anytime by visiting:

Kanopy is a video streaming platform for libraries with one of the largest and most unique collections in the world. It features over 26,000 feature films, documentaries, independent and foreign language films from hundreds of producers including The Criterion Collection, Great Courses, Kino Lorber, Media Education Foundation, PBS and thousands of independent filmmakers. Their collection is six times the size of Netflix!

Kanopy is committed to diversity, with an amazing array of foreign language films and films on race, LGBT, gender and international political issues. Recent categories on the Kanopy front page include “Immigration Stories”, “New York Times Critics’ Picks” and “Banned! Films from Countries in the U.S. Travel Ban”. Kanopy’s films are accessible for the hearing and visually impaired (Kanopy is compatible with technologies such as JAWS and all films come with optional captions and transcripts). All films come with public performance rights and can be used by teachers and community non-profits for free film events.

Kanopy films are free for Forbes Library cardholders, who can watch up to eight films a month. If library patrons need assistance creating an account, logging in with their Forbes Library card or have any questions, we encourage them to call, email or visit us at the library. Kanopy has just released apps for iOs and Android to go along with their previously released Roku app, giving the public even more ways to enjoy great films for free on their computer, tablet, phone or TV.

Please welcome our new Head of Reference, Alene Moroni!

Alene Moroni

Alene Moroni

Alene has worked at Forbes for two years as an Information Services Librarian, focusing on helping patrons, connecting people with books, making enticing displays, and maintaining the library’s collections. Her favorite thing about being a librarian is giving someone a book they will enjoy. In her new role, she looks forward to continuing to work with her stellar colleagues to improve the collections and Information Services department to best meet the needs of library patrons and the community at large. Before Forbes, Alene worked for the King County (WA) Library System​ as the manager of collection development. She began her library career at The New York Public Library.

Trustees’ statement and radio interview about the Agreement of June 29, 2017

Please click to read the Trustees’ statement about the Agreement of June 29, 2017.

Sound clip of interview: Trustee Chair Russell Carrier and Director Lisa Downing on the Bill Newman Show, July 12, 2017

Full text of the Agreement: Agreement for Judgement between the City of Northampton and the Trustees of Forbes Library

Editorial about the agreement, Daily Hampshire Gazette, July 25, 2017

Updated on July 28, 2017

Forbes Library to close summer Saturdays

Because of budget shortfalls this year, Forbes Library will close Saturdays from July 1st through September 2nd

We are often asked “Why Saturdays instead of another day of the week?”

Every day of the week is an important one to our patrons and we realize that Saturday closings are a hardship for many library users. However, financial realities meant that one day had to be chosen for closing and each day of the week is special to someone. There is no one overarching reason to choose Saturdays instead of a weekday. It is merely the least bad of all the unpleasant options.

The reasons Saturday was chosen:

  • Interlibrary loan deliveries come Monday through Friday and staff must be here to process the 600 to 1,000 items delivered daily. The library does not have the shelf space to store two days’ worth of ILL materials if the library is not open for patrons to pick up their holds each day that they are delivered.
  • Closing Saturdays saves money primarily by not paying staff those days. Saturday is the day with the fewest permanent, salaried employees working, therefore closing that day causes the least disruption to library employees’ schedules and maximizes personnel savings. It also allows us to close the building for 2 consecutive days and this saves on cooling.
  • Closing Saturdays in the summer is common for many libraries, because typically libraries are much less busy on weekends in the summer. Because Forbes and Lilly Libraries coordinate their schedules, our community will still have access to Lilly Library which is open 10:00 to 5:00 on Saturday and 1:00 to 5:00 on Sunday.

Agreement for Judgement between the City of Northampton and the Trustees of Forbes Library

On Thursday, June 29, 2017 there was a hearing before Judge Fidnick of the Hampshire Probate and Family Court about the Agreement for Judgement between the City of Northampton and the Trustees of Forbes Library. Both parties characterize the agreement as providing clarification on the original will of Charles Forbes by which the library was founded and a strong framework for both parties to work together going forward.

The full text of the agreement can be found on the library’s website.

Thank you for your input!

Photo of winner of Northampton gift cardThank you to the 1060 people filled out the Forbes Library Community Survey. We are thrilled to hear from so many people who care about the future of Forbes Library. The survey is one part of our new strategic plan to identify priorities for services and programs for the next five years. Knowing your needs and interests will guide decisions on specific library goals and activities. The strategic plan will be available early this fall, and will include analysis of the survey results. The winner of the $100 Northampton gift card is Alice Rich Lewis.

Thank you for a successful Valley Gives Day!

Forbes Library raised $7,905 from 134 generous donors on Valley Gives Day 2017. This exceeded the library’s matching challenge grant of $6,000 from the Friends of Forbes Library. The library was the lucky winner of a $500 “golden ticket” as well, bringing the total for the day to $14,405.

“We are so touched by the outpouring of generosity. The funds raised are so gratefully appreciated and will be used to provide free educational and life-enriching programs for patrons of all ages,” said Lisa Downing, Library Director. Programming at Forbes Library is an integral part of the library’s mission, which serves to support the civic, intellectual, and cultural pursuits of the community. Last year over 20,000 people attended a program at the library. “Our programs bring the community together and encourage curiosity, free inquiry and lifelong learning for all ages and income levels. The funds raised on Valley Gives Day will support a year’s worth of amazing free programs and we couldn’t be more delighted,” said Downing.

Thank you to all the Forbes Library 2017 Valley Gives Day donors!!

Casey Accardi
Brian Adams
Carolyn Anderson
Nick and Kayla Ang
anonymous : In honor of my community
anonymous : In honor of Richard Groening
Elizabeth Armstrong
Kristen Atwood
Ruth Banta
Lisa Baskin
Elizabeth Bedell
Marguerite Bedell
David Bliss
Danielle Brown : In honor of Steven the librarian! 🙂
Morgan Brown
Catherine Brown
Mary Ellen Bruce
Mark Brumberg
Marcia/Ed Burick/McColgan : In memory of Daniel Goldstein
Lale A Burk
Rebecca and Jonah Busansky and Zuckerman
Janet Bush
Ellen Cain
Russ Carrier
Hilary & Jonathan Caws-Elwitt
Anne Cernak
Adam Cohen
Carla Cooke : In honor of my parents
William Cooley
Kay Cowperthwait
Carolyn Cushing
Kendra Dahlquist : In honor of Hilary Caws-Elwitt
Carole DeSanti
Joseph & Janet Dibrindisi
Lisa Downing : In honor of Jason Mazzotta
Candace Drimmer : In memory of Rivkah Peller
Christine Duckworth
Kate Faulkner
Jenny Ferreia
Ronnie and Lawrence Field
Maureen Flannery
Herman Fong
John and Gail Gaustad
Joanne Gold
Hannia Gonzalez
Tzivia Gover
Suzy Groden
Margaret Groesbeck
Deborah Haas
Johanna Halbeisen : In honor of All children with library cards
Rachel Hannah
Stephen Hathaway In memory of Marie Hershkowitz
Portia Henle
Marjorie Hess
Kelley Hopkins : In honor of the hardworking staff at Forbes library
Elizabeth Horn
James Humphreys
Joanna James
Elizabeth Jones
Margo Jones
Benjamin Kalish
Alla Katsnelson
Deborah Koch
Kaitlyn Konzen
Lisa Levheim : In memory of Jane Sanders
Claire Lobdell : In honor of Simona & Annelise
Madeleine Lombard : In honor of Nerdy librarian musicians everywhere
Patricia Loomis : On behalf of Rio Santos
Louise Lopman
Ina Luadtke
Margaret Lucey
Jo Ellen Mackenzie : In memory of Dorothy Brozoski
Maya MacLachlan
Charles Maguire
Flora Majumder
Daniel Manseau : On behalf of Gram Flynn
Judith Markland
Jason Mazzotta
Martha McCormick
Nancy McEwen
Ellen Meeropol
Kate Miller
Robert Moore
Molly Moss
Richard Moulding
Catherine Obbard
Marie Panik
Joe Pater
Sally Popper
Alicia Ralph : In honor of Janet
Elaine Reall : In memory of Ann Wilson
Chris Ridout
Susan Rogers
Kathryn Rother
Karen Saakvitne
Lauret Savoy
Maxine Schmidt
Elizabeth Schoenfeld
Jacqueline Scott
Janet Sharp
Nicole Sibley : In honor of Lisa Downing
Serah Sibley
Jean Simmons
Harriet Smith
Suzanne Smith
Ruth Solie
Susan Spencer
Karen Spindel
Barry Steeves
Christopher Stetson
Susan Stinson
Maurica Thomas
Todd Trebour
Naomi Tropp
Joseph Twarog
Sky Vanderlinde
James Vaughn
Elizabeth Volkmann
Daisy von Furth
Doreen Weinberger
Carol Werba
David Wicinas
Katy Wight
Cheryl Willems
Megan Wolf
Kim Wolfson : In memory of Karen P Wolfson
Virginina Wooster
Katherine Wyatt