Committed to Serving All

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) is committed to serving everyone who works, lives, or goes to school in Massachusetts. Events since 2020 have caused us to reflect, to reexamine our work and services, and to plan through an equity lens. Together with our community partners, we’re making changes in support of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in libraries that we hope will bring us closer to our mission of serving everyone.

Resource Guide: Social Justice and Libraries: Anti-Racism

Board Statements:


EDI a factor in latest grant round
Each year the MBLC awards an average of $350,000 in grants to public and special libraries across the Commonwealth under the Federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) which is funded through the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The grants help libraries address local needs. For the FY2023 LSTA grant round, EDI was built into the application process. Applicants explained how their proposed grant project addresses EDI in each section of the application. EDI was included as part of the grant review and overall scoring.  Grants were awarded in July, 2022.

Creating Accessible Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing
The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) partnered with the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH) to present free webinars “Welcoming Patrons Who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Late Deafened to Your Library.” Topics covered during the webinars included offering appropriate auxiliary aids including audio induction loops, FM systems, and personal amplifiers, gaining understanding about connecting with American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, Certified Deaf Interpreters, and Communication Access Realtime Captioners (CART) services, and learning about best practices and how to implement them.

The MBLC and Perkins Increase Library Accessibility
For the 1,700 public, school, and academic libraries across the Commonwealth, giving people equal access to library services is fundamental. But for the more than 780,000 people* with disabilities living in Massachusetts, access to library services is often a challenge.  The MBLC and Perkins Access (a division of Perkins School for the Blind) have teamed up to create a workshop series that connects librarians with Perkins Access experts who will teach them ways to increase library accessibility.

Inclusive Marketing for Equity in Library Services
The MBLC’s  Statewide Public Relations Advisory Committee is responsible for promoting federal and state funded statewide library services. As part of its efforts, the committee conducted a statewide survey of both library users and non-users. While the survey provided insight to people’s attitudes towards libraries and services, it lacked representation in respondents. Over 1,000 people responded, but fewer than 6% were people of color.

The committee recognized that it needed a broader awareness about the issues involved in providing and promoting equity in library services. Dr. Sonya Grier, Professor of Marketing at American University’s Kogod School of Business, worked with the MBLC to create a workshop series for the committee that identified the types of equity issues that occur in libraries and addressed the need for equity in library planning and activities. Dr. Grier’s interactive sessions resulted in the development of a framework for inclusive marketing along with concrete actions to support inclusive marketing in the library context.

Digital Equity through Statewide Hotspots
Massachusetts residents conducted 15,000 internet sessions every day in public libraries during 2019. When COVID-19 hit and many libraries closed their doors, patrons were left without the internet access they needed to participate in remote schooling and telework.  Libraries stepped up with outdoor library Wi-Fi, but a more user-friendly solution was needed, especially during the winter months.  In response, the MBLC developed a statewide hotspot program giving residents the ability to borrow the internet from their local library by checking out a hotspot.  

Rural residents served through the Small Libraries Pilot Program
The MBLC launched a new construction pilot program aimed at libraries in communities with populations under 2,000. Libraries in small communities have struggled to participate in the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP). During the last decade only 2 libraries were built or renovated in communities of this size, while in larger communities 32 projects have been completed.

Improving access in small communities
Being a part of one of the nine automated library networks has benefits for both the library and the residents it serves. For residents, it’s access to the eContent and print materials from all over the state. For the library, it includes critical library business functions, like patron registration, inventory control, circulation, and shared cataloging. Yet the average network membership cost of $13,363 for small libraries in municipalities under 10,000, can be prohibitive. That’s where the MBLC’s Small Libraries in Networks (SLIN) program steps in to help.

Helping the Hardest Hit by COVID
The MBLC used ARPA funds to help libraries in communities deemed “hard hit by COVID” by Governor Baker’s office to provide programs and services that will help their communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health designated twenty communities as hard hit by COVID, including Boston, Brockton, Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Framingham, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Methuen, New Bedford, Randolph, Revere, Springfield, and Worcester. According to the Department of Health website, “The 20 cities and towns are those hardest hit by COVID-19, taking into account case rates as well as the social determinants of health and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color,” adding, “Over centuries, discriminatory and exclusionary policies and practices have shaped where people live and work. These factors are part of the social determinants of health and directly impact residents' health as well as their access to opportunities that promote health.”

For Further Information

James Lonergan, Director
617-725-1860, x222
857-488-7238 (Mobile)