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Friends of the GB Libraries film series: Fun, free, companionable

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By Wednesday, Jan 3, 2018 Life In the Berkshires 1

Great Barrington — “Libraries, like reading habits, are changing at a quick pace,” according to Holly Hamer, former trustee and current Friend of the GB Libraries.

In an age where screens threaten to replace everything including the need for tangible reading material, local libraries are having to think outside of the proverbial box in order to draw patrons who may not feel the need to check out books. Herein lies the genesis of the First Saturday Free Film Series, sponsored by the Friends of the GB Libraries; the latest film in the series, the first of 2018, will be a Danish documentary entitled, BUGS which will be shown in the vaulted reading room of the Mason Library on Saturday, January 6th, at 7 p.m.

“Get out of the house and hang out with your neighbors,” said Ed Abrahams, president of the Friends of the GB Libraries. “It’s free, it’s fun, and we’ll all learn something.” This attitude is what led Abrahams and Hamer, who met as volunteers at the Mason Library nearly a decade ago, to start the series last year. It was a joint effort aimed at getting people out of the house, away from their screens, and in a roomful of friends and neighbors. What began six years ago — with the screening of documentaries on Thursday nights to audiences of 10 to 20 people — has swelled to draw between 70 to 100 people now that the films are shown on Saturday evenings. The addition of wine and snacks, before and after the movie, has only helped the series’ popularity; “We’ve made it a community event,” noted Abrahams. “It’s something to see dozens of people, some friends, some strangers, all ages, gather and engage,” he added of the screenings.

Ed Abrahams and Holly Hamer discuss the film series at the Mason Library. Photo: Hannah Van Sickle

The aim of the film series has been multifaceted; it allows the library to keep current with patrons’ needs; it works to broaden the base of support for libraries; and it provides an outlet that combats loneliness and social isolation during the coldest months of the year (although it runs monthly from September-April!) There is no pressure, no exchange of money, rather a single, common thread: the promise of an engaging film that serves as the jumping off point for an ongoing conversation. Connecting in a meaningful way, with the community at large, is a practice that can only strengthen relationships among neighbors. Both Hamer and Abrahams were quick to point out that, as the town continues to undergo major expansion, discussions surrounding changes in infrastructure are inevitable. When controversial issues arise in town — as seen during the drawn out Main Street reconstruction of two summers ago — tensions often run high. Opportunities for less emotional discussion, such as those with friends and neighbors at a community event, can ultimately pave the way for more productive discussions when the stakes are higher.

Bug-themed snacks, donated by Robin’s Candy Shop, for Saturday evening’s screening of ‘Bugs’ at the Mason Library. Photo: Hannah Van Sickle

The 2016 film, slated for Saturday evening, follows a chef and a researcher as they travel the world sampling insects that are commonly eaten by other cultures. Because of their high protein and fat content, coupled with reproductive efficiency, insects hold great promise for thwarting an impending global food crisis. They can also be produced more sustainably and with a much smaller ecological footprint than that of vertebrate livestock. Holly Hamer, series caterer, said, “Bugs will definitely be on the menu, but I promise those items will be clearly labeled.” Robin’s Candy Shop of Main Street has donated over 75 bug related food items, including crickets, ants, larvae and grasshoppers.

The event, free and open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. with a wine and cheese social; the film starts at 7:30 and runs for 75 minutes. A community discussion and more mingling will follow until closing at 10 p.m. Friends of the Great Barrington Libraries hosts this documentary film series with the goal of providing a no-cost opportunity to socialize and discuss films that appeal to our eclectic community. The First Saturday Free Film Series is sponsored by the Board of Library Trustees and the Friends of the GB Libraries. The Berkshire Coop Market will join as a co-host for this sustainable food themed film. Seating is limited. Further details can be found at Facebook.com/FriendsGBL or by calling Mason Library, 413-528-2403.

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  1. Pat Hollenbeck GB Libraries Trustee says:

    Holly and Ed have done a masterful job of curating an eclectic selection of first rate films that are refreshingly different and are attracting an audience from South County and beyond.
    You owe it to yourself to pry that mouse out of your hand and come down to join a cross section of humanity for Films@Mason.

    Cabin fever on Sundays? There’s a cure for that too. Thanks to the Staff and Friends of the GB Libraries,
    Ramsdell in Housatonic is open on Sundays from 1-4.
    The coffee is strong, the wi-fi is stronger, the Sunday NY Times will be waiting for you
    and there’s a delightful Children’s Room with a great selection of distractions to sooth your screaming offsprings.

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