DATE: May 25, 2010
New Massachusetts Library System Gains Support
On July 1, 2010 the new Massachusetts Library System (MLS) will begin operating as the sole provider of regional library services for the more than 1700 public, school, academic, and special libraries across the state. These services were previously delivered by six regional library systems but FY2011 state budget reductions necessitated restructuring and consolidation into one system that will provide core library services such as interlibrary loan. For full information on this process, please see the Regional Transition Planning Committee Final Report (doc).
While MLS gears up for July, with final interviews this week for the Executive Director position and other key positions being filled, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) has worked closely with Governor Patrick and key members of the House and Senate to reach a unified approach to the provision of regional services within a severely constrained FY2011 budget.
On May 14, the Patrick Administration and the Board of Library Commissioners issued a joint fact sheet (pdf) in support of the Massachusetts Library System (MLS) as the single administrative entity to carry out regional services while stating a commitment to a service location in the western part of the state.
Members of the House and Senate have also taken strides to encourage the support of MLS. Representative John Scibak (South Hadley) has taken a leadership role in this issue and wrote to the entire western Massachusetts legislative delegation asking them to support MLS and offering language to assure a physical presence in the west.
Senators Brewer, Downing, Knapik and Rosenberg filed an amendment to the Senate budget that will be debated this week that states, "provided further, that the board of library commissioners shall provide funds for the continued operation of a single regional library system to serve the different geographic regions of the Commonwealth, and requiring that physical locations be maintained in both eastern and western Massachusetts to serve the residents of said regions."
The Board of Library Commissioners welcomes the support and direction of the Legislature. "This is an important step forward," said MBLC Chairman George Comeau. "The proposed amendment when adopted will clarify the next steps in the difficult consolidation of the six regional library systems. Only with the consolidation of all regions can the best possible services be sustained for all libraries and residents of the Commonwealth." Comeau added that "this consolidation will place library services at the forefront of the rebuilding process as we move forward. These are difficult choices, made in the face of historic cuts, and we are grateful to Senate and House leaders who have stepped forward to support our initiatives." Having the Administration, the Legislature and the MBLC working together clears the way for the transition to MLS.
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.