February 5, 2001
Director, Communications & Public Information
Massachusetts Awarded Federal Grant to Support Library Services
Beverly Sheppard, Acting Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, announced federal grants totaling $148,939,000 to library agencies in the 50 states, District of Columbia, and U.S. territories last week. These funds are awarded through the Library Services and Technology Act and will be administered in Massachusetts by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. Grants are awarded according to a population-based formula and Massachusetts will receive $3,247,678.
Acting Director Beverly Sheppard noted, "This is the premier federal grant program for libraries. The hallmark of this program is the flexibility it gives each state to address its unique and high priority needs. This flexibility has been a catalyst for innovation and has broken ground for a comprehensive approach that incorporates all types of libraries and the broadest possible public. The range of programs and services supported by these grants is a wonderful testament to the creativity, ingenuity and dedica-tion to public service evidenced by library professionals throughout the country."
These grants promote access to learning and information resources in all types of libraries. States provide at least $1.00 for every $2.00 of federal support. These federal grants advance two primary goals: to provide technology and support for networking and resource sharing, and to provide library services to underserved people in rural and urban areas with increased access and improved efficiency.
Keith Michael Fiels, Director of the Board of Library Commissioners, noted that these federal funds work hard in Massachusetts. "Most people don't realize the enormous benefit that this amount of federal money produces. Anytime you go into your local library and use a terminal to find a book or request one from another library, you are using a network that has been developed using federal funds. Each year thousands of people in communities of all sizes throughout the Commonwealth benefit from grants for early childhood programs, preservation of deteriorating historic materials, after school services for students or expanded reference services in areas such as medicine and health or business."
Highlights of how the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners used the IMLS Library Services and Technology Act funds to benefit Massachusetts last year follow:
Digitization of Historical Photograph Collection: Federal funds helped the Watertown Public Library scan its 3,000 historic black and white photographic collection, as well as a group of historic maps were also scanned. Previous to this project, these images, while conserved and adequately stored, were available to researchers only when the library was open, and even then, only when specific staff members were available. Since demand for the images is quite large, one of the main objectives of this project was to make the images available to anyone with access to the Internet at any time of the day or night. In addition to scanning the images, the library created captions for each im-age and thumbnail images were arranged on the library's Web site according to topic. (www.watertownlib.org/Photos/toc.html)
Preservation Survey: The Montague Public Libraries' staff and trustees identified the need to develop a disaster plan for the library, to move materials from conditions and locations that are damaging to them (e.g. photographs from their frames and damaging light), to address the needs of their special collections in planning for an addition/renovation, to provide a fire alarm system that is directly linked to the Fire Department, to develop a collections policy for the local history/archives collections, to create standards for the proper care of their circulating and reference collection, and to provide access to all their local history materials (i.e. arrange, describe and catalog all materials.)
Early Childhood: The Holmes Public Library in Halifax lost no time in getting this project underway. It began with two lapsit programs in October, running weekly throughout the project year, including the summer months. One lapsit was for infants aged 3 - 12 months, and the other for babies 12 - 24 months. Initially these groups included 12 children (plus parents), later they were expanded to include 16 or 17. The lapsits were fully subscribed, each with a waiting list. The 30-minute programs stretched into 45 minutes, as parents and babies enjoyed and asked for more!
Collection development included books for the 0 - 5 age group, a resource collection of books for parents and caregivers, and developmentally-appropriate toys and games. A display/information center was purchased to display new acquisitions and post information about programs and services for this project.
Gateway to Global: The Haverhill Public Library's project "Gateway to Global" developed the curriculum for its information literacy classes with the help of a patron survey which asked library users what computer skills they wanted to learn, when they were available and what their subject interests were. This information was incorporated into the curriculum, which was developed by an outside consultant hired to prepare the content, produce specific lesson plans and handouts for 10 class topics and train staff. The 10 topics for the one-and-a-half hour classes were: 1) Point, Click, and Navigate: Introductory Internet Computer Skills; 2)Research It! Finding People; 3) Navigating the Web! E-mail and More; 4) Research It! Business; 5) Navigating the Web! Business; 6) Research It! Health; 7) Navigating the Web! Health; 8) Having Fun on the Internet; 9) Internet Searching Basics; and 10) Internet Searching: Beyond the Basics. With minimal advertising, the classes were immediately filled and waiting lists begun.
Homework Zone: The Walpole Public Library built a Web site created to alleviate chronic commu-nication problems between schools and the public library regarding homework assignments. In the two years of the project, great strides were made toward increasing this communication and distributing information to librarians, students, parents and teachers. The Homework Zone Web site contains home page for each school, where a lot of information about the school's activities, events, programs, etc. are listed. Due dates, suggestions for extra credit and web resources that students can consult are all included. Since the information is Internet-accessible, students and parents can locate the information on computers in the school, at home, or in the public library.
Customer Service: The Athol Public Library used their Customer Service Mini-grant to provide training for all staff, including part-time staff, on how to improve customer service, deal with problem patrons, and resolve issues about the use of new technologies; to customer service-oriented public relations strategies and materials and to develop, evaluate and/or update a staff training manual or orientation manual, and update current policies and procedures to reflect attitudes of good customer service. The library offered three workshops to all library staff and trustees and generously opened this training up to staff of surrounding libraries, thus extending the impact of this project to other communities. In addition, several employees attended computer classes on word processing, file management and problem solving. This addressed a key problem of staff who are expected to keep up with technology but lack the resources to adequately train their staffs.
About the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) - IMLS is an independent Federal agency that fosters leadership, innovation, and a lifetime of learning by supporting the nation's museums and libraries. Created by the Museum and Library Services Act of 1996, P.L. 104-208, IMLS administers the Library Services and Technology Act and the Museum Services Act. For more information, contact IMLS at www.imls.gov/.
The Board of Library Commissioners (mass.gov/mblc) is the agency of state government with the statutory authority and responsibility to organize, develop, coordinate and improve library services throughout the Commonwealth. The Board advises municipalities and library trustees on the operation and maintenance of public libraries, including construction and renovation. It administers state and federal grant programs for libraries and promotes cooperation among all types of libraries through regional library systems and automated resource sharing. It also works to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of their geographic location, social or economic status, age, level of physical or intellectual ability or cultural background, have access to essential new electronic information technologies and significant electronic databases.