Thanksgiving History at Massachusetts Libraries

Family Celebrates Thanksgiving
A family celebrates Thanksgiving (Courtesy of the Digital Commonwealth)

Between basting the turkey and mashing the potatoes in preparation for Thanksgiving on Thursday, why not take some time to view some of the historic documents that set the stage for the annual holiday? Plymouth Massachusetts was home to the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621, and Massachusetts libraries have the resources to provide insight of that special celebration.

The Massachusetts State Library located in the State House has a digitized copy of William Bradford’s Of Plimoth Plantation.  A State Library blog post outlines the interesting history of Bradford’s famous account of early life in Plymouth:

“The volume’s history is long and complicated, but can be summarized in a few points: between 1650 and 1726 the manuscript remained in the hands of the Bradford family until the family loaned it to Thomas Prince, Rector of Old South Church in Boston.  Prince died before volume could be returned to the family. Legend has it that British soldiers removed the manuscript from Old South Church during the Revolutionary War. In 1855, Massachusetts historian William Barry discovered the volume in the Library of the Bishop of London in Fulham Palace, and then for the next forty years individuals and historical organizations in Massachusetts negotiated for its return. In 1897 the volume was returned to Massachusetts and placed in the custody of Governor Roger Wolcott; Governor Wolcott authorized the State Library to care for the volume.” (http://mastatelibrary.blogspot.com/2015/03/william-bradfords-manuscript-volume-of.html)

In 2012, with support from an LSTA grant administered by the MBLC, the document was preserved at the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in Andover, Massachusetts. In addition to Bradford’s book the library has digitized copies of the Mayflower Compact, the list of Mayflower Passengers, and an account of “Thanksgiving 1621”. All of these digital resources are easily accessible to download and view here: http://archives.lib.state.ma.us/handle/2452/208249.

If you are celebrating Thanksgiving in Plymouth, you can stop by the Plymouth Public Library’s local history room to find out more about the first settlers and their histories. The Bartlett Room “houses the Plymouth Public Library’s collection of over 1200 items relating to the descendants of the Mayflower Pilgrims, as well as the many other immigrants who settled in the area.” In addition, the library’s website has digitized photos of the Plymouth Tercentenary Celebration. The photos and more information about the Bartlett room can be found here: http://pplma.omeka.net/welcome.

On behalf of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, we wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

International Federation of Libraries Association meets in Poland

By Shelley Quezada, Consultant to the Underserved at the MBLC

Dateline:  Wroclaw, Poland.   The historic city on the banks of the Oder (Odra) river crisscrossed by 120 bridges has served as home to people from Lithuania, Germany, and Austria for many centuries.  After World War II, Wroclaw was designated to be part of Poland.   This past August the city served as site for the International Federation of Library Associations and Affiliates (IFLA) World Conference.   Approximately 3000 librarians came to Wroclaw to share, deliberate and affirm the important role of libraries as a cornerstone of democracies around the world.   IFLA is currently crafting a World Vision for library service  and is actively seeking input from librarians around the world.

Among the largest delegation were approximately 338 librarians from the United States including the recently formed Polish American Librarians Association  whose president, former long-time American Libraries editor Leonard Kimmel is one of its most famous sons.   Representation among Polish librarians was substantial, many of whom served as amazing volunteers and hosts for the week- long conference and provided multiple occasions to tour the country’s substantial libraries.

Among the many highlights of the IFLA conference was an opening ceremony that featured aerial performances with amazing acrobats (think Cirque du Soleil) and a cultural night that overwhelmed participants with a sound and light show held on the grounds of Centennial Hall, a hundred year old engineering marvel that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site last year.  In addition to opportunities to work on global initiatives, many conference goers were afforded the chance to visit historic universities and archives in the cities of Cracow and Warsaw.

Among the most charming new libraries in Poland is the recently opened library in the city’s main train station, the Wrocław Główny. From outside the station the invitation to the “Biblioteka” is clearly visible.

Inside on the platform where thousands of people pass every day, an enormous arch of books directs the traveler towards the upper floor where the city’s newest branch library recently opened its doors.

The giant clock over the Reference and Circulation area reminiscent of the modern children’s classic   The Invention of Hugo Cabret  reminds commuters that books are great companions at any time to read, ride and return.

The modern library boasts an array of computer terminals, an art gallery, collections for browsing and comfortable furniture that welcomes parents and their children.

Even as we professional librarians immerse ourselves daily in the work of libraries, the Wrocław Główny like so many others in Poland reminds us of the importance of libraries to people around the world.  Poland’s libraries are a testament to the city’s strong commitment  to its communities  making  books and access to information  accessible to readers of all backgrounds and interests wherever they may find themselves- even in a train station. The library’s website is www.biblioteka.wroc.pl

Be Legal and in the Money: Ballot Question and Capital Campaign Dos and Don’ts

By Library Building Consultant Rosemary Waltos and Library Building Specialist Lauren Stara

Join us and our two guest speakers on September 25, from 10:30 – 2:30 at the newly renovated Cary Memorial Library in Lexington to learn about the dos and don’ts of winning ballot questions and running capital campaign fundraising from the experts. Jason Tait from the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) will answer those sticky questions about what you legally can and cannot do in your get-out-the-vote town meeting and ballot question campaign. Adam Dawkins, Director of Stewardship, Trinity Church, Boston and former advisor to the Stoughton Public Library Capital Campaign will give tips on the ins-and-outs of running a successful one-time-only capital campaign.

Feel free to attend one or both sessions and don’t miss seeing the newly renovated Cary Memorial Library. Register at http://mblc.libcal.com/event/3595380 by Friday, September 22.

All are welcome, with Library directors and members of their trustees and building committees in the 2016-17 construction grant round especially encouraged to attend. Here’s how the day will stack up.

10:30 a.m.           Ballot Question Do’s and Don’ts: Using Public Resource and Political Action On/Off the Job. Jason Tait, Director of Communications and Public Education, Massachusetts’ OCPF

Noon – 1 p.m.   *Break

1:00 p.m.             Capital Campaigns: What’s Different about Them. Adam Dawkins, Director of Stewardship, Trinity Church, Boston and former advisor to the Stoughton Public Library Capital Campaign

2 p.m.                   Wrap-Up

*Here is your chance to see one of the most innovative public libraries in the state and an example of a flexible floorplan at work. Lexington’s Cary Memorial Library was expanded and renovated 2004. Then eleven years later, under the leadership Library Director Koren Stembridge, the library flexed it floorplan to meet the evolving needs and demands of its community by reconfiguring and upgrading of a goodly portion of its space. Today, a transformed Cary Memorial Library offers a one desk model for convenient circulation and information/reference service, an Idea Wall for interactive exhibits, four new study rooms for a total of seven, and the Cary Commons, a casual gathering space that doubles as a performance hall. Best of all, the Library features a vibrant new teen space with collaborative spaces, a technology area, generous casual seating, and more room for collections. It is worth the ride to the outskirts of Boston to see this library.

Your Voice, Your Library!

By Library Building Consultant Rosemary Waltos

Massachusetts’ web of automated networks, robust delivery service, and state aid funds to public libraries make it easy and convenient for people to use not only their own city/town library but to freely use any public library in the state. And they do!

The perennial question in library circles is why? Why do some folks in Massachusetts cross city/town borders for their library fix? As is true with many questions, the answers don’t come easy or fast. To help figure it out, the MBLC is launching a study of cooperative borrowing and use patterns of Massachusetts public libraries, especially in-person visits by people that live in other cities and towns.

In addition to gathering statistical information from our networks and ARIS reports, between July and September we are seeking input from library users and library staff members through our Your Voice, Your Library survey.

For some people, surveys are at worse The Plague and at best a nuisance, so we are sweetening the deal for even the most reluctant survey taker. During the month of August, patrons completing the Your Voice, Your Library survey get a chance to enter to win one of three Apple iPad Pros. Not bad, right?

As the patron survey closes, we launch a separate survey of library staff in September. As an incentive to complete it, staff members get a chance to win a “seat on the bus” on our exclusive Your Voice, Your Library tour. We will take a small group of library staffers to as many new library buildings that we can cram into one day (dates and libraries TBD). There will be two different tours offered on two different days for up to ten people on each tour. We’ll talk about what’s great about the designs, and what the librarians would do differently next time, and lunch will be provided.

Of course, we can’t do this without your help. We simply ask that you to put the Your Voice, Your Library survey button on your home page and encourage library patrons and staff members to take the survey. It takes about five minutes to complete. We will be sending information and the survey to you in advance through van delivery and on the PubDir and AllRegions listservs.

The Your Voice, Your Library survey is open to the public until September 8.  For more information about the survey or how you can be involved in this important effort, contact MBLC’s Library Building Specialists at 1-800-952-7403

Lauren Stara, x245, lauren.stara@state.ma.us

Rosemary Waltos, x246, rosemary.waltos@state.ma.us

And THANKS!

Design Thinking Across the Nation

By Lauren Stara, Library Building Specialist at the MBLC

For the last few weeks I have been spending part of my time with OCLC and WebJunction, helping with a IMLS-funded course. Small Libraries Create Smart Spaces is a program that is supporting 15 small and rural public libraries from across the country as they reimagine and reconfigure their libraries into smart spaces. Most are looking at creating “active learning” spaces from underused or newly reclaimed space (from weeding collections, for example) in their existing libraries.

My particular role has been as a champion of Design Thinking – I was brought on board to help with the Ideation and Prototyping modules. These concepts are two of the components outlined in the Design Thinking for Libraries toolkit by IDEO. It’s an approach I’ve been teaching and using in my work for a couple of years.

The course is completely online, so talking about physical space and especially building prototypes was a bit of a challenge! However, with lots of help from the amazing Betha Gutsche and Brianna Hoffman of OCLC and some pretty amazing tech tools, we made it work. We even had real-time sessions for brainstorming ideas and creating personas.

One of the things I love about my job is the opportunity to share my passion about library design and new ways of thinking and working. It’s especially fun to expand the reach of the agency beyond the borders of Massachusetts and share these ideas with a larger audience. None of this would have been possible even ten years ago. Online collaboration tools are way beyond what they were, and they make it fun.

If you want to know more, take a look at this LibGuide that I wrote for the participating libraries:

The Island that Spoke by Hand – Uncovering the history of Deaf culture on Martha’s Vineyard

By Shelley Quezada, Consultant to the Underserved at the MBLC

The town of Chilmark on Martha’s Vineyard was once known for its larger than average population of traditionally Deaf residents.  Decades ago, in the Squibnocket area of Chilmark perhaps as many as a quarter of the population was Deaf.   On this part of the island, almost one out of every 25 people was Deaf compared with the national average of one in 5728.   Today  members of Deaf community may choose to communicate through American Sign Language (ASL) but in past decades a Chilmark a variant known as Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL) was practiced by both Deaf and hearing members of the community alike.

The Chilmark Free Public Library maintains a fascinating record of this unique community in their historical archives. As it turns out, The American School for the Deaf (ASD) founded in Hartford CT in 1817 included many students from Martha’s Vineyard who used MVSL as their primary form of communication.

Chronicled in Nora Ellen Groce’s scholarly but accessible book Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language, up to a few decades ago Chilmark was something akin to a Deaf utopia where both Deaf and hearing members of the community freely used sign language as a primary communication vehicle.  People moving into Chilmark from the outside often ended up learning MVSL in order to fit in and indeed there was high acceptance of this communication tool. Most important in examining this fascinating story is the truth that being Deaf was never considered a handicap.

The Chilmark library’s archives note they are, “lucky to have documents of their evocative memories, and to enjoy their stories of how children signed behind a schoolteacher’s back; adults signed to one another during church sermons; farmers signed to their children across a wide field; and how fishermen signed to each other from their boats.”

However, over a seventy-year span, members of the Deaf community began to attend off-island schools, got married and settled in other places so that eventually many of these Vineyard natives either left or passed away. This absorbing piece of cultural history can be further explored through newspaper and magazine articles, a recent YouTube video and the archives of the Chilmark Free Public Library’s historical archives.

Suggested Resources:

Groce, Nora Ellen .Everyone Here Spoke Sign LanguageHereditary Deafness on Martha’s Vineyard. Harvard University Press, 1995.

Chilmark Free Public Library- Chilmark Deaf Historical Archive http://catalog.chilmarklibrary.org/pdf/

Vineyard  Poole-Nash, Joan (April 3, 2014). Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language (MSVL) of the past (Public lecture/YouTube video). Fall River, Massachusetts: Bristol Community College. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_euOAP8asw

http://archive.boston.com/news/local/articles/2004/06/06/vineyards_deaf_past_is_retold_in_drama_of_signs_and_speech

Kageleiry, Jamie.  “The Island That Spoke by Hand” . Yankee. Mar 99. Vol 63 p.48.

Happy Trails

This blog post was written by former MBLC Director Dianne Carty. Dianne retired on June 2, 2017.

Recently it was suggested to me that I write a good-bye blog post.  Any number of clichés immediately popped into my brain, such that I could not write anything without cringing at my own words.

There is never a good time to transition out of a job as critical as Director of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.  I know that until the last minute of the last hour on my last day, there will be some communication or some issue that needs attention.  It will be difficult to let it go, to let it be.

As I look at my time at the Board of Library Commissioners, it is not just the past few years that are foremost in my reminiscence, but the many years I spent digging into and shaping the State Aid program, advancing the collection of data for libraries to use and working with some incredibly wise, creative and committed people at the MBLC and throughout the library community.  These last four years have been exceedingly full of activity and opportunity.  Of particular note are the Strategic Planning process and the review of the State Aid to Public Libraries program.  Both of these endeavors are near completion and promise to result in a more collaborative approach to programs and services for the library community of Massachusetts.  I was extremely fortunate to be in my current position when the MBLC reached the 125 year milestone two years ago and to be part of the celebration.  In recent years existing partnerships were strengthened and new connections formed, including the Social Law Library, the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth, the Department of Children and Families, the Kennedy Library, and the Massachusetts Coalition for Serious Illness Care. The MBLC opened another Public Library Construction grant round and received 33 applications that are near the end of the review and selection process.  It has been a speedy four years and I am so very proud to have been part of the MBLC during this time.

We at the MBLC are about libraries, but ultimately we are about unfettered access to information by all residents of the Commonwealth.  I am proud to have served at the Board of Library Commissioners in several capacities.  Let me underscore the verb to serve—for that is what government work is—it is service to people and service that ensures access to information remains open and free for all people.

Libraries are the instruments of democracy; we in the library community have much work ahead of us. And with this work we also have the opportunity to create and to lead a way through the present into the future. The completion of the Board of Library Commissioners’ Strategic Planning document will be the start of the realization of a new way forward.

It is difficult for me to put words to paper or verbalize my emotions. My years at the MBLC have meant continual growth for me and gaining a deeper understanding of the complex, living organism that is Massachusetts and its library community. It is now time for another to enjoy and experience the fulfillment and gratification that comes from being at the MBLC and working with all levels of government and the library community.

This experience will be with me always.

Construction Resources Available through the MBLC

One of the great little-known resources for librarians in the commonwealth is the MBLC’s professional collection. We have hundreds of books on just about every conceivable library-related topic. All these items are available via the NOBLE network.

Because of our current construction grant round, we have put together a resource guide with a list of some of the newest books in our collection in the area of library design, construction and maintenance. Each item on the list links directly to the record in NOBLE, to make requesting easy.