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The Children’s Library targets children from infancy through at least age twelve (or through fifth grade) as their primary service audience, however also serves a wide range of clientele including parents and care givers, adults working with children, agencies and/or organizations serving children, students of children’s literature, writers, artists, craftspeople, adults developing language skills, and adults needing basic subject material. The Young Adult Department serves this same clientele with its emphasis being on young people ages twelve through eighteen years, through the junior and senior high school grade levels. For the purpose of this policy statement, youth and young people are used interchangeably and are roughly defined as persons from infancy through age eighteen or high school. 


In accordance with the principles expressed in the Library Bill of Rights and Free Access to Libraries for Minors (1) , the Children’s and Young Adult Departments of the Berkshire Athenaeum provide free library service to all young people who are residents of Massachusetts without restriction.  The public service goals of these departments are to introduce young people to the love of reading and literature, to develop capable critical users of information and technology, and to encourage their development to their fullest potential.  To meet these goals the library provides a collection of diverse materials in various formats; information service for young people; information technology; programs which excite young people about literature, information, technology, and promote library use; news releases about upcoming children’s services and resources; and cooperation with other community agencies serving children. 

Children are guaranteed access on an equal basis with adults to all of these services, materials, and resources provided by the library. The library provides a fully funded, fully staffed children’s library throughout the year, supervised by a qualified librarian specializing in service to children and young people.


The Children’s Library and the Young Adult Department of the Berkshire Athenaeum strive to meet the reading and informational needs of children and young people by providing a variety of enriching experiences. 

The library offers, at no charge, a full range of materials and services to young people, setting no limitations on use of materials because age or the type of material.  As library users, these children and young people are treated courteously and with respect throughout the library.  All are entitled to the full range of available service all hours the library is open.  These services include information services, reserves, and interlibrary loan. 

As children’s needs are no longer met by the Children’s Library, staff will act as guides to the Young Adult and Adult Departments easing that transition, and by helping them to make reference inquiries of the adult services staff.  In all cases, the library supports a child’s/young person’s right to privacy in accordance with the principles expressed in the American Library Association’s Statement of Professional Ethics (1981), and the Athenaeum’s Borrowing Policy & Procedures.

The Children’s Library and Young Adults Department develop and maintain a collection of age appropriate materials in print, audiovisual, and electronic formats for both in-library use and circulation, to meet the fullest possible range of needs; provide reference service, making no distinction between children’s and adult’s questions.  This includes telephone and electronic information and referral.  To further support this, these departments strive to provide:

· Reader’s advisory assistance;

· Programs to promote the objectives of the department (including, but not exclusive to, preschool story time, a summer reading incentive programs, educational programs, and library instruction);

· Outreach activities to schools, day cares, home schools, and other service agencies as staffing levels permit;

· Access to children’s and young adults’ materials and library services through local and union catalogs, ILL and reserve systems, use of electronic technology, and participation in the regional library system;

· Appropriate service to all children including under-served children (children with disabilities, homeless and latchkey children, and children in alternate learning and care environments) keeping in mind the Athenaeum’s “unattended child” policy;

· Cooperation with local agencies in providing and enhancing educational experiences for young people;

· Current information concerning community resources and programs;

· Publicity through local media sources, newsletters, and in-house brochures about programs and resources available at the library.


The distinct needs and characteristics of childhood make it essential that the Berkshire Athenaeum designate staff to provide services to children.  Each child in Pittsfield is entitled to the expertise of a professional children’s librarian who has earned a master’s degree from an ALA accredited program.

The children’s librarian, and to a lesser extent all employees in the Children’s Library and Young Adult Department, shall possess:

· A broad knowledge of young people’s physical and intellectual development and a genuine caring and respect for youth;

· Awareness of current issues affecting children in the community and society;

· Ability to work well with young people and adults;

· A broad knowledge of children’s and young adult literature and information resources and the ability to relate print and non-print materials to young people;

· Ability and desire to be an advocate for young people within the library and the community;

· Ability to plan and carry out youth programming.

The Athenaeum’s children’s librarian is responsible for the Management of both the Children’s Library and the Young Adult Department operations, and the duties include:

· Serving as part of the Athenaeum’s management team to assure communication and coordination with library administration and other library staff;

· Select, evaluate, maintain and weed children’s and young adult materials.

· Assessment of budgetary needs;

· Selection of support staff (under consultation with administration);

· Training, supervision and evaluation of support staff;

· Provide reference, reader’s advisory and library orientation / instruction services.

· Plan, implement, supervise and evaluate programs.

· Promote, publicize and represent youth services and the Athenaeum to the community and local agencies in cooperation with other library departments.


The Children’s Library and Young Adult Department collections, as described in more depth in the Materials Selection Policy section of the Berkshire Athenaeum Collection Development / Maintenance Policy and its attachments, include a wide variety of subject matter and levels of difficulty.

The purpose of the Children’s collection is to provide a broad spectrum of print and non-print materials that meet the informational, recreational, cultural and developmental needs of all children in the community.  Inherent in this purpose is the desire to provide accurate, up-to-date information and to foster the love of reading and the appreciation of literature. 

Similar to, but somewhat different, the Young Adult Collection provides support print materials in fiction and nonfiction.  The department provides high interest paperback fiction and magazines.  This department also offers materials which address the topics of special interest to this age group.  Complimented by the Adult Collection which is adjacent to the department, popular music and audio books can be found there.  A small reference collection also is available in the Young Adult Department.

Materials are selected based on popular appeal as well as quality of content and presentation.  Requests from children, young people, and parents are encouraged and considered.

Recognizing that the purpose of this library is not the same as a school library, the collection complements but does not take the place of the school libraries in our community.  

Various formats are available in the Children’s collection, including fiction and nonfiction books in print and non-print formats, picture books, reference books, periodicals, audio recordings, video recordings, DVD’s, professional materials relating to children’s services, a parent/teacher collection, a teacher’s kit collection with toys and other realia, foreign language materials, and multi-cultural materials. 

As new formats and technologies are developed, the children’s department considers these for inclusion in the collection.  The Children’s Library makes available a computer and software for registered library users, a video viewing area, and an audio cassette player for in-house use.  Internet service also is available for public use for children in grade five and under.


Programming in the Children’s Library is an essential service which strives to meet the cultural, recreational and informational needs of the community by exciting children about literature and information, promoting library use, attracting non-users and highlighting the library as a vital community resource.  All programs are free.

The Children’s Library offers a wide variety of programs which includes story times for various ages, craft programs for parents and other adults, reading programs, films, summer reading programs, book discussion groups, library orientation and tours, library skills programs, visits to schools and other organizations, outreach programs, lectures, demonstrations, and special performances in a variety of formats such as storytelling, puppetry, theater, magic, educational presentations, and music (see Library Programs: Policy & Procedures).

The Young Adult Department offers a variety of programs throughout the school year as staffing levels permit.  These programs are offered in the evening, after school, and during vacations.  They may include reading incentive, events of popular interest such as musical concerts, and educational programming.

Programs are offered on a regular basis, and are publicized in advance through the local media, newsletters, contacts with local schools, and in-house fliers.

While it may be necessary to limit the number of participants in a given program, advance notice is given, and all patrons are give equal opportunity.

1. (Intellectual Freedom Manual, 4th edition, American Library Association, 1992)


Updated June 2010.  

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Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield's Public Library, Pittsfield, Massachusetts