On December 10, 2018, MBLC Library Advisory Specialist Maura Deedy and I visited the Worcester Public Library to discuss their current LSTA preservation grant. While there, we met with Genealogy and Local History Librarian Joy Hennig, Public Services Coordinator Pingshen Chen, and Public Services Supervisor of e-Resources and Periodicals Priya Subramanian.
They pursued the LSTA grant as an opportunity to rehouse a significant portion of books from one of their oldest and most unique collections, the books of WPL founder Dr. John Green. The approximately 8,000 books were given to the library in 1859 and quite literally were the first collections WPL ever had. It was a great visit where we talked about how the project was going, how they are working to make the collection more accessible, and some of the continuing challenges and opportunities involved in longer-term issues like preservation, conservation, and digitization. They are looking forward to opportunities for engaging their community with these collections, online and in person, while also incrementally enhancing their level of preservation. It was a pleasure to get to know them and work together with them on this great project!
After working with WPL, we drove up the road to visit with Babette Gehnrich of the American Antiquarian Society, who graciously toured us around their building for the better part of the afternoon. For those who might not know, AAS was founded in 1812 and is a preeminent collection of early Americana (before 1876). Babette has been a leader in conservation and preservation for thirty years, so it was a treat to see some of her practices for housings and collections storage.
WPL and AAS are fantastic neighbors (they are less than 2 miles from each other!) and their collections are truly important components in the cultural heritage of Worcester. Thanks to them and their great staff for offering MBLC an opportunity to learn more and help support some of their good works.
The MBLC offers an innovative category among our LSTA grant options for libraries that have come up with a unique solution to address a community need. One of this year’s innovative grants is Chicopee Public Library’s “Combining Good Ingredients”.
Many Chicopee residents live with food insecurity, in poverty, and/or in poor health. The library was approached by several local organizations looking to partner with it to help solve these pressing issues. The library’s central location and frequent hours combined with mobile outreach via the Bookmobile make it a natural hub for the collaborative efforts of the various community groups that serve Chicopee in terms of food needs. Recognizing the need in the city and the impact they could have, the library applied for and received an innovative grant.
With their grant, Chicopee Public Library has offered numerous programs that educate and entertain in order to encourage healthy eating, gardening, and cooking. Programs offered included Mediterranean Cooking, Pollinators in your Garden, and Soup’s Up, an intergenerational story time. Focusing on programming is giving patrons the opportunity for hands-on learning and the ability to ask questions in the moment. It has opened the door of the library to residents who might not be readers or who do not want to take home books and videos.
The cooking and gardening programs have been the most popular, though attendees have been very enthusiastic about all that has been offered. Nearly all the participants said they learned something new and that they would make changes from what they learned. Plus, they plan on coming back for more programs!
The library has also found some unique ways to carry out the grant beyond programming. A very popular collection of food toys has been added to the children’s room. Parents mention that having story times with food have given them ideas about how to use food toys at home with their children. The traveling art exhibit “Food for Thought: The Origins of Massachusetts Foods and Why It Matters” from the Commonwealth Museum was on display in January. If anyone looking to donate some seeds, the Chicopee Public Library will be happy to add them to its new seed library. And coming later this summer will be a portable pizza garden!
Through the Bookmobile, the Library is reaching members of its community who could greatly benefit from this project and might not use the traditional brick and mortar building. In the coming months, Bookmobile stops will include a pop-up food pantry with Lorraine’s Food Pantry. Additionally, ChicopeeFRESH (a grant funded farm to school program) will distribute fresh vegetables at Bookmobile stops during the summer months.
With this project, the library is trying to be part of the solution by offering opportunities and resources that allow Chicopee residents to make better and smarter choices. Through strong partnerships, hands-on learning, and targeted outreach, Chicopee Public Library shows what an innovative force in the community looks like.
By Lyndsay Forbes, Project Manager and Grant Specialist at the MBLC
As libraries have evolved over the years, so have the ideas of what they should collect and lend to their patrons. A visit to your local library today will offer so much more than books. It’s not anything against books, I promise. Sometimes the best way to meet a need is with something that’s a bit outside the book shelf.
Libraries have always made it their mission to make information accessible to all. To keep up with that goal, you have to be aware of how people are getting their information. Many libraries lend out broadband mobile hotspots. This device enables you to access the internet for free from any location. Internet access is vital in today’s world. Options like being able to borrow a mobile hotspot can help fill a gap among users.
Learning and libraries are natural partners. And sometimes the best way to learn is hands-on. With help from an LSTA grant, the Middleborough Public Library created STEAM backpacks and teacher kits you can take home. Are you on an astronomy kick? You can check out the night sky with a telescope from a nearby library. By approaching learning in an innovative way, libraries can provide additional means for exploring what interests you.
Libraries provide rich cultural and educational opportunities, both inside and outside their walls. One very popular and longstanding option you may already be familiar with is a museum pass program. Sign up at your local library to borrow a museum pass and get discounted or free admission to area museums, such as the Museum of Science or the Museum of Fine Arts. The Department of Conservation and Recreation ParksPass is also available at many libraries. This pass gives free parking at more than 50 facilities in the Massachusetts State Parks System that charge a day-use parking fee. Offsetting the cost of visiting these great places allows these experiences to be more accessible to a wide variety of people.
The option to try before you buy is another reason for offering a non-traditional collection. Want to test out your ukulele skills? The Forbes Library in Northampton has a variety of musical instruments it lends to card holders. Now you can practice at a basic level before making the jump to buy that banjo. The upstart cost of activities can make them out of reach for many individuals. Lending items like musical instruments helps break down these barriers.
The unique collections available can help you by providing items you’d use occasionally but you don’t want to (or can’t) store. Borrow a sewing machine from the Cary Memorial Library in Lexington when you have some mending to do. Get some friends together and ham it up with Reading Public Library’s Karaoke Machine. Bake all the cakes with the help of Brookline Public Library’s cake pan collection. By expanding the idea of what to lend, libraries take resource sharing to a whole new level.
Libraries strive to provide a place to explore ideas, connect individuals and groups, offer cultural and educational experiences, foster creativity, and enhance lives. With such lofty goals, you can see why today’s library goes beyond books.
Home to numerous aging documents dating back to the 1700s, the Millis Public Library is in the running to win a grant to digitize the documents for future generations. “When you’re in Boston or Concord, you think, of course, the Revolutionary War happened here,” said Alexander Lent, library director. “But it also happened in Millis.” That is the kind of history Lent wants to protect from future damage by using funds from the Hopkinton-based EMC Heritage Trust Project. (Boston Globe)
It has been a difficult time for Brooks Free Library, the municipal library in Harwich Center, with technical problems that have nearly crippled the institution over the past couple of weeks. With failed lighting circuits, the library has had to shut off access to the building at a time of year when that library is the center of this community, serving more patrons that other libraries of similar size on the Cape. It is the oversight of that library which makes it so popular. Library Director Ginny Hewitt does a tremendous job on a daily basis there. (Cape Cod Chronicle)
Libraries that see high usage in the summer are often an obvious choice for free programs while school is out. On a busy Saturday last month, parents and their children participated in a reading project and made ring tosses at the New Bedford Public Library downtown. One-year-old Dylan Kish tossed a paper ring onto a small pole as his mother Meghan Kish and brother Alex Kish looked on. Library Director Olivia Melo said each library has different programs and all are free to the public. A live calendar is available online. The last two weeks had about 17 children participate downtown. (SouthCoast Today)
On your mark, get set, read. That’s the theme of this summer’s statewide reading program and fit nicely with Lynn Public Library’s bike giveaway Thursday. “I was just very excited because I really needed a new bike,” said 9-year-old Sadiejon Galland, who won a new bike. “My old one is starting to fall apart a lot.” Ten bicycles and two big wheels were distributed as part of the Read and Ride program of the Grand Lodge Knights of Pythias of Massachusetts. (Itemlive)
This summer, the MBLC challenged all Massachusetts residents to choose four books to read over the summer and share them on social media to encourage others to read as well. The “What’s Your Four?” campaign launched because children who read just four books over the summer fare better on reading comprehension tests in the fall, compared with their peers who read one or none. (MBLC News)
All summer, kids have been hanging out in front of the Morris Park Library in the Bronx, before opening hours and after closing. They bring their computers to pick up the Wi-Fi signal that is leaking out of the building, because they can’t afford internet access at home. They’re there during the school year, too, even during the winter — it’s the only way they can complete their online math homework. (New York Times)
Some of you would argue that your library is a nonprofit organization and is not competing with anyone. We beg to differ. Every customer has a choice and chooses whether to go to the library website or Google’s search bar, to either engage the library or order materials from Amazon. Amazon would much rather have its customers buy a book than borrow, and Google would much rather have information seekers search its website than seek out a reference or research librarian. There is no question that libraries compete head-to-head with these for-profit businesses. (American Libraries)
In a few short weeks, bright-eyed college freshmen will be ambling onto campuses and into their first lectures. Which means a whole lot of newly minted undergrads are about to get freaked out by their on-campus libraries. Library anxiety is real. The phenomenon, which involves feeling intimidated, embarrassed, and overwhelmed by libraries and librarians, was first identified by Constance A. Mellon in 1986. Her paper, “Library Anxiety: A Grounded Theory and Its Development,” reported that college students in particular are prone to library anxiety because they believe their research skills are inadequate, which makes them feel ashamed and unwilling to talk to the very librarians who might be able to ease their worries. (Atlas Obscura)
Right now, there’s over 440,000 items from 130 participating institutions in this statewide digital repository. It’s a great tool for educators, historians, researchers, students, artists, authors – anybody with an interest in exploring the past through ultra-high resolution photographs, maps, letters, books, paintings, postcards, and more.
With so much content, there’s some bizarre and unexpected stuff tucked in as well. Below are five highlights from four of the most unique collections in the Digital Commonwealth.