Visiting Eastham and Reading Public Libraries: Town-Wide Preservation Assessments

By Evan Knight, Preservation Specialist at the MBLC

Since joining MBLC as Preservation Specialist last month, I quickly realized how important it is to get know the libraries, people, and collections that make our Commonwealth so culturally rich.

Much of my work here at MBLC is either project consulting (for annual LSTA direct grants) or general advisory services for collection management and risk assessment (e.g., water, fire, theft, intellectual control, light, temperature, humidity, pests, etc.).

So a few weeks ago, I reached out to Debra DeJonker-Berry, Director of Eastham Public Library, to learn more about her experiences leading recent projects in Eastham that related to both of those aspects of my work: an LSTA-funded Town-Wide Preservation Assessment and Collection Identification, and MBLC’s environmental monitoring program.

What a visit! She arranged a number of meetings around town with a couple of the local institutions who were a part of the Town-Wide grant, first with the volunteer staff of the Eastham Historical Society.

Gloria, Eileen, Sylvia (l-r), Eastham Historical Society
Debra DeJonker-Berry, Eastham Public Library

We talked about their continuing work to process their collections, best practices in the preservation of scrapbooks, and their digitization projects with Digital Commonwealth (and the challenges of preparing metadata), as we toured their Archives and storage spaces. The next visit was with the Town Clerk’s Office, who maintain and preserve some of Eastham’s oldest legal and historical documents (among many other responsibilities!). The public library plays a role in sharing and interpreting some of these old documents, the “ancient records” as they’re called, by providing electronic copies on CD and online. This is just another example, in the same spirit as the Town-Wide Assessment grant, of the collaborative vision Debra has for the Eastham Public Library. One of the greatest values of the Town-Wide project, as she put it, was having everyone at the same table talking about big-picture issues regarding their collections, now and for the future, together.

The Eastham Library, by the way, occupies a beautiful building, opened in 2016, that is worthy of a visit in its own right. We discussed their environmental monitoring report for their archives storage room, and although we didn’t find major concerns, they’re continuing to check their data every month to make sure the humidification system is working correctly.

Sue, Cindy, Linda (l-r), Eastham Town Clerk
Interior views, Eastham Public Library

Reading Public Library is another institution pursuing an LSTA-funded Town-Wide Preservation Assessment and Collection Identification, and wouldn’t you know it, they have a beautiful building too, recently renovated! Amy Lannon, Director, hosted me for a recent visit to get to know their collections and better familiarize myself with their goals in this project.

South façade panorama, Reading Public Library

The Reading Antiquarian Society, the Reading Historical Commission, and the Reading Town Clerk will all participate with the Public Library to analyze their collections and determine their preservation needs.

Amy, Eileen (l-r), Reading Public Library

On my visit, I also spent a lot of time looking at the collection and the storage area with Eileen, Local History Librarian, to talk about collection development policies, security, oversize maps, environmental monitoring, and what to expect in the Assessment process.

It was a great pleasure to visit all of these institutions, and I was happy to see the work that MBLC is helping to support. But what I like most is meeting the folks who manage the collections and do the day-to-day work to preserve the cultural heritage of the Commonwealth. Thank you!

Visiting Historic Collections in Worcester

By Evan Knight, MBLC Preservation Specialist

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!

Joy and Pingshen Caption: WPL staff members Joy and Pingshen.
WPL staff members Joy and Pingshen

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.

Babette in front of storage.
On our tour of AAS in one of their storage rooms

 

 

Boxes with photos on spine.
Among the many tips we learned for enclosures: take a photo of the object inside and adhere it on the box instead of a label, which you can see here

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Age of Enlightenment in Bellingham

By Shelley Quezada, Consultant to the Underserved

For a number of months last year, residents of Bellingham were invited to participate in an array of programs for all ages that focused on environmental literacy including alternative energy  recycling and water resources. From March through September 2017 the Bellingham library carried out a series called Enlighten Bellingham” to engage community members in meaningful science and technology experiences. The Bellingham Public Library was one of three Massachusetts libraries chosen as a pilot library for a project funded with federal funds coordinated by the Maine State Library, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and Cornerstones of Science, a Maine nonprofit. The goal was to create a field-tested, replicable science literacy method that would enable designated public libraries to become skilled STEM facilitators.

Programs included information on upcyclying, using plastic bags to crochet, and the why and how of solar panels.  One of the most  exciting events was an Electric Car Show conducted with support from the New England Electric Auto Association.  Members of the audience engaged  presenters by asking relevant  questions and showing a real interest in how new technology  might be of benefit in the future.  Later this year the library will host a second electric car show and invite partners who presented in last year’s series on solar, water, and recycling as part of a final day long open house.

As part of this initiative the library  held a Build a Better World Science Fair to conclude the popular summer reading program.  They also subscribed to a program called Tinker Crates and Kiwi Crates.  Each month the library receives  two  STEM kits  and uses them as the basis for programming that kids can  share with another person  and work through the challenge of creative problem solving.   The Kiwi Crate programs teach kids to “think big” and act like creators and producers instead of just consumers.  Thus kids gain confidence and don’t assume there is only one “right way” to build with blocks, paint a picture or solve a problem.  Bellingham  kids have made robots, kaleidoscopes, waterwheels, and a variety of other very cool STEM projects.  Parents are thrilled that the library offers these kits and the goal of engaging the whole community in an enlightening experience with science continues to be supported. For more information about these programs please contact library director, Bernadette Rivard. brivard@bellinghamma.org