Fact Sheet

Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

Library Technology and Resource Sharing


The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners supports resource sharing and the improvement of library technology in Massachusetts through a variety of programs. Nine automated resource sharing networks, with a combined membership of 382 libraries, are the key partners in many of these efforts. These nine independent units provide core library functionality, such as circulation control and centralized cataloging for their members, and web-accessible online catalogs for all residents.

The Board annually provides an offset to the cost of ongoing telecommunications and Internet connections for members of the automated networks, and an offset for sharing materials requested by patrons through networks and via the statewide virtual catalog. The Board provides program oversight and funding for the administration of the statewide virtual catalog itself. The Small Libraries in Networks program is specifically designed for smaller public libraries, primarily in the western part of the state, providing dedicated broadband Internet connections and a higher level of participation in resource sharing.

The Board's Web site organizes access to its programs and services, provides detailed data about Massachusetts libraries, and contains a directory of manuscript and archives repositories (special collections) in Massachusetts. The "Mass.gov/libraries" portal, launched in January of 2008, provides Massachusetts library resources, and the full-text database offerings (e.g., Gale Cengage Learning) that are further described in the Statewide Services Fact Sheet. The portal hosts an improved statewide library directory.


The Board offsets telecommunications costs for the nine automated resource sharing networks. Currently, 315 of 370 public libraries have dedicated direct connections to these networks. In addition, 22 small public libraries receive support for broadband connections via satellite, cable or DSL to the Internet, and four libraries receive support for dial-up Internet service. When fully-funded, this program would be able to offset 100 percent of current telecomm costs for networks: in FY10, with reduced funding of $775,000 available, it offset 57 percent.


The Board offsets the costs for certain smaller public libraries to affiliate with an automated resource sharing network or to obtain broadband access to the Internet. The program provides support for three levels of network service: Online Internet, Online Affiliate Membership, and Full Circulating Membership. For each level of service the program is intended to provide: partial offset of new member charges, all necessary telecommunications equipment, and an offset of the annual network service fee. The annual cost of a dedicated telecommunications circuit to connect the library to the network and the Internet is offset through the Telecommunications for Resource Sharing program. Supported by a combination of LSTA and State Funds, 96 public libraries are now participating in the Small Libraries in Networks program.


The Board provides an offset to the automated networks for creating an environment where libraries can identify, locate, and request materials electronically. This program recognizes the generosity of libraries that make their materials available for resource sharing through the network catalogs. In FY10, $725,000 was awarded to the nine networks, who shared 6.3 million items, an increase of 11 percent over the previous year.


The statewide virtual catalog permits users to perform a single author, title or subject search and retrieve results providing locations and availability status for materials held by libraries all over the Commonwealth. The virtual catalog allows you to search the holdings of all nine automated networks, three of the University of Massachusetts library systems: Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell, and two state colleges, Bridgewater and Westfield State Colleges. In FY09, over 90 thousand loans were made through the Virtual Catalog.


The Board provides technical assistance to public libraries and networks that apply for federal e-rate discounts. E-rate offsets a statewide average of 44 percent of the telecommunications costs for the eight networks with public and school library members. A small number of public libraries apply directly for local and long distance telephone discounts.

Libraries and networks must apply for the universal service discount and complete a technology plan in order to receive a discount on services over and above basic telephone service. The Board is authorized to review and approve the plans for Massachusetts public libraries and networks.


Mass.gov/libraries is a new Web site that promotes libraries, directs the public to local library services through a directory of 1,800 members, and acts as a gateway to electronic resources for all residents of the Commonwealth.

The Board's business Web site, mass.gov/mblc provides information on programs and services of the Board. Mass.gov/mblc provides a more detailed view of the library directory of libraries as well as 7,000 staff and trustees. The site also acts as a communications channel between the Board, the six Massachusetts regional library systems and libraries. The site receives around 7,000 visitors per day.


The documentary heritage of Massachusetts is essentially intact from its founding. Repositories throughout the Commonwealth house irreplaceable collections of books and private and public documents.

The Board's Web site provides a directory database of special collections residing in Massachusetts libraries, archives, historical societies, and town clerks' offices. This directory provides access for the first time in one location to the holdings of 636 repositories in the Commonwealth. Often such holdings are not fully cataloged or known outside the library yet are of great potential research value.

Listings are available by town/location, institution, repository, collection description, and special collection. Name and Subject authority searches were added in 2002. Each directory record provides information about the institution, contacts, services available, and volume of material as well as directions to the repository. Links to full finding aids, collection records, and digital images are provided where available.


98 North Washington St., Suite 401 • Boston, MA 02114 • 617-725-1860 • 800-952-7403 (in-state only) • fax: 617-725-0140 • mass.gov/mblc
Page last updated on 06/11/2015