Library Valentines Show Libraries aren’t just Loved, they’re Necessary

Valentines are a way we show how much we care. So why not use them as a way to show how much libraries are loved?  That’s exactly what the MBLC has done.  The MBLC’s 3rd annual Library Lovers campaign provides a way for residents to write valentines to their libraries. The MBLC collects the valentines and delivers them to legislators to help them better understand how much residents value libraries. Last year 4,000 valentines were delivered to Massachusetts legislators. Last year we delivered 4,000 valentines to 121 state legislators.

More important than the quantity of valentines is what residents say. It’s truly heartfelt (pun intended.) It’s not just that they love their helpful librarians (they do, in droves!) or that there’s amazing books, programs and resources. It’s that libraries play a role in residents’ lives that no one or no other institution can.

Have a look at just a few of the thousands we received. Please note: with the exception of Perkins Library at Perkins School for the Blind, all identifying information has been removed:

The Library has been an integral part of my life, for my entire life. I learned how to read in the Children’s Room and wrote my college applications on the computers upstairs. It’s hard not to love the Library’s kind and caring staff, and the love of reading that they share with patrons. Recently, I was able to utilize the Library in a new fashion-- professional research.
The Director of the library helped me with research for a television show I was working on. Despite the fact that I now live in New York, there was no one I’d rather have spoken with; she, along with the rest of the Library staff, are incredibly well-informed, with excellent knowledge of the resources at their fingertips.  I love the Library and
My local library is very small but its benefit to the community is enormous. The library is very important to me. I work from home and am very isolated. Our town is rural, so I don’t get to see a lot of people. The library has been so helpful in getting me out into my community, learning what is going on within it, meeting other residents, and creating a social civic life that I feel fully engaged in.
The library is the only place I’ve always belonged, no matter what.
My library supported me! I emailed them with an idea to start an environmental themed book club, and they helped me brainstorm which books we should choose for the program, took care of all the advertising and scheduling, and now I have this awesome book club to look forward to every month! I get to meet people in my community who care about the same things I do too. As a recent college graduate, finding ways to connect with my community after being away for 4 years is really important to me. I’m so happy I was able to continue learning new things with other like-minded people at my local library!
The Perkins Library has served me throughout my entire life. First as a student at Perkins, and then as a wife mother and homemaker. And the books that were made available to me, and all of the subjects pertaining to the occupation in my life then, were of invaluable help. 
Later on, my work in community theater benefited from the Library's wide selection of helpful material. But, when I became a caregiver to my daughter during her long battle against Glioblastoma brain cancer, the constant flow of books from my beloved library provided me with the information about the disease, escape, and sometimes humor which I needed to get through those impossible twelve years. 
Now, Perkins Library still walks beside me through sleepless nights and empty days, helping me get through my grief. Perkins Library has done what even well-meaning friends could not do and I shall be forever grateful. 
I love you Perkins Library!
Listening to recorded books I've received from the Perkins Talking Book Library it is a lifeline for me, it allows me to be connected to the world, to learn, to be entertained, to feel companionship. It gives meaning and hope for me. Thank you so much.
I love our local Library because it brings our community together. It allows us to meet each other in person and share experiences
My library helps to make my retirement years meaningful.
Perkins Library became part of my life 18 years ago. It's right up there with the air I breathe.
My library opens up my world. It allows me to travel to new places, to meet new people, to cook new foods, and to hear new music all with one little card (and without spending a dime). I am forever grateful for the resources available and the friendly staff that make these experiences possible. This is TRUE LOVE!
Love the opportunities to meet with other teens and play Minecraft! What a great group. Thank you Library.
Dear Library, I loved you but I left you... I want you back! I miss you so much! Here in Maine there’s no SAILS network, no New Release DVD’s, no amazing Juvenile DVD’s, no coupon sharing, no dropping off items at any network library location ...You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone!
Please support our libraries - they are an essential continuing education resource and invaluable to those who do not have access to a computer at home, especially those who are looking for work.
I love the staff and the access to such a wide variety of resources through the consortium. It’s so good to see all these institutions working together. I’ve lived lots of places and no other state or commonwealth does this as well. I was even able to take grad classes in history at Harvard without spending a fortune on books because of interlibrary loans. Please keep them funded!
I love my library because it still can instill a love of reading in children.
Libraries are essential in providing access to digital media that many may not have access to otherwise. They play a critical role in leveling the “digital divide” playing field. Libraries are worthy of our support and worthy of tax payer support.
Our library is more than just a place to borrow materials...it is a hub of our community with a community room that is used every day of the year by over 150 different groups. It is a place where people come together to discuss common interests, meet up with friends, see/hear fabulous authors talk,etc.
…It is also an essential resource for those of us whose work relies on access to accurate and up-to-date information; I use my local library’s services on a weekly basis, including interlibrary loan services, and would be hard-pressed to do my job as effectively without it.

For more information on the Library Lovers campaign, contact Celeste Bruno at the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. To be a part of the campaign, access all materials on the MBLC Awarehouse.

OCLN is letting residents know that they’re Wired to Reach You

Residents love their libraries. And thanks to the  Old Colony Library Network’s (OCLN) Wired to Reach You campaign, residents will be able to share what they love about their network, too.
“Statewide awareness and advocacy campaigns are reaching librarians and trustees,” said Dave Slater, Executive Director at OCLN. “We want to reach residents.”

OCLN’s small but mighty four-member legislative committee worked with MBLC staff to develop Wired to Reach You, a campaign that helps residents understand that many of the library services they love are made possible by OCLN. Residents can go to http://links.ocln.org/wired and say what they love about OCLN and their comments will be shared with state legislators.

Funding to networks and library technology (state budget line 7000-9506 Library Technology and Resource Sharing) is a priority in the FY2020 Legislative Agenda so the more information legislators have about how much residents value their networks, the better.  Especially since technology has a changed a lot in the past twenty years; but what hasn’t changed is state funding to support library technology and library networks. In fact, this funding is 36% lower than it was in 2001.

OCLN will launch the campaign during the week of January 14 and it will run for a month.

Wired to Reach you materials are available on the MBLC Awarehouse (link). Please contact Celeste Bruno or Matt Perry for more information.

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!

The MBLC Welcomes Andrea Bunker!

Andrea Bunker started at the MBLC on December 6 as our new Library Building Specialist. She will be working closely with Lauren Stara to administer the very successful Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program.

Andrea comes to us from Woburn Public Library, where she was Director since 2016. She’s been spending most of her time on the WPL’s addition and renovation, which is slated to reopen in February. Her experience will be especially helpful to libraries planning renovations to historic buildings – the Woburn Public Library is a National Historic Landmark and was the first library designed by HH Richardson, who became well known for public libraries. Prior to Woburn, she participated in a space planning project for the Newburyport Public Library where she served first as the Teen Librarian and then as Senior Librarian for Reference.

She holds an MLIS from the University of Rhode Island and a BA in English and Secondary Education from Northeastern University.

Andrea “looks forward to working with libraries throughout the Commonwealth in creating spaces that foster lifelong learning, assist residents in pursuing their goals, and strengthen connections within communities.”

Please join us in welcoming Andrea to this crucial role!

Reimagined Wellesley Branch Library Welcomes Librarians

By Shelley Quezada, Consultant to the Underserved at the MBLC

On October 29, 2018 staff from seven libraries that received  FY19 LSTA grants for Mind in the Making: Supporting Play Spaces in Libraries  convened for training in the beautiful repurposed Fells Branch of the Wellesley Public Library.  In addition to Wellesley, the communities of Bedford, Bourne,  Rutland, Shirley, Waltham and Shrewsbury  will spend this year expanding opportunities for young children to participate in creative play activities in the library as well as to build, problem solve, think critically and even embrace failure as they become more confident and engaged learners.  Under leadership of library director Jamie Jurgensen who applied for a LSTA grant, the library interior features  wood replicas of Wellesley’s  famous buildings as well as frescos of local flora and fauna that are both a delight to see and touch.

The Fells Branch, first opened in 1858 as a one-room schoolhouse, became a branch library in 1923 but recently has been used as a nursery school.  Now, thanks to the generosity of the Wellesley Free Library Foundation and the Wellesley Foundation, the newly painted and refurbished branch  opened  to the public on November 17. 

The LSTA training featured Alli Leake, Director of Education from the Discovery Museum in Acton who maintains a “Play Matters Blog” on the museum  website.  She invited librarians to engage in a play activity by cooperatively building structures with “found materials” which in this case were paper cups.    

Additional support was provided by Jessie Kravette of the Boston Children’s Museum who shared some of the many  BCM  resources  that support the importance of play.  

Participating librarians were excited to share some of the many  ideas they will be implementing over the course of the coming year as they create interactive play and flexible learning spaces in their own libraries.   

A Must Read for Library Construction

By MBLC Library Building Specialist Lauren Stara

Every once in a while, a book comes along that is packed with so much good information that you want to share it with everyone. In this case, that means everyone who is planning a library construction project.

The Practical Handbook of Library Architecture: Creating Building Spaces that Work by Fred Schlipf and John A Moorman (ALA, 2018) is the book.

To be honest, it’s a little intimidating at nearly 1,000 pages, but don’t let that stop you. The authors are librarians who have decades of experience with library design and construction from the librarian’s point of view, and they’ve put it all down in black and white with humor and style. Chapter Two is entitled “More than Two Hundred Snappy Rules for Good and Evil in Library Architecture” – need I say more?

Topics run the gamut from the 10,000 foot view (overviews of the design and construction processes) to the granular (the wording for the plaque that goes in the lobby), and everything in between. There’s even a chapter called “Evaluating Library Buildings by Walking Around” that’s great for assessing an existing facility. You can see from the photo that I started flagging important passages, but after a few chapters I had to stop because I was running out of flags.

This is a book that former MBLC Construction Specialist Patience Jackson could have written, for those of you who know her. It’s the book I wish I had written, with a few minor exceptions – the information is unrelentingly practical, and I admit that my training as an architect rears its head at times. One example: the section on page 103 where the authors rail against what they call “designer staircases.” I do love a dramatic stairway.

You can download the Table of Contents and the “Two Hundred Snappy Rules” in PDF for free from the ALA Editions website. This is not an inexpensive book, but we are in the process of ordering two more copies to circulate for our professional collection. Contact Lauren Stara if you have any questions.

Afternoon Tea

Tea CupsOn a warm summer afternoon  in July, dozens of Plymouth Public Library patrons gathered to celebrate the institution of Afternoon Tea.  The theme tied in with the popular epistolary novel, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society that chronicles the occupation of the British channel island of Guernsey by Nazis during World War II.  It was chosen as a focus for the town’s city wide reading program, Plymouth Reads, 2018

Guests were invited to sample an array of sweet and savory scones , tea cakes as well as  finger sandwiches enhanced by lemon curd and jam.  Fragrant pots of “Afternoon Revival” or Darjeeling tea were served on delicate Limoges china. Local tea expert and entrepreneur  Lisa Tavakoli  provided a short but fascinating overview of  the British consumption of tea and related how, in spite of hardship, tea remained an absolute necessity to the British people during the dark days of the war.

After enjoying  light refreshments, library outreach coordinator Thomas Cummiskey invited people to write  Plymouth themed postcards that  will be sent to  residents who use the local Guille- Allès Public Library in Guernsey.  Some older residents  shared memories of Plymouth during World War II and others discussed  similarities between two communities that have both a strong maritime tradition and serve as a popular tourist destination.

Participants were invited to continue the dialogue in the coming month when Netflix is slated to release a movie based on the book.

The library will hold a live skype from Guernsey and later screen the film followed by a discussion program.  The opportunity for everyone to come together and engage in a calm and enjoyable discussion over a cup of tea is a welcome reminder of the unique service that the Plymouth Public library provides to its community.

Public Libraries in Massachusetts: An Evolving Ecosystem

After over a year of hard work, we have completed our “Evolving Ecosystem” report with Watertown based design and planning firm Sasaki and help from Massachusetts library patrons and staff who filled out our statewide survey last summer.

The study was initiated and funded by the construction program, so that was the focus. We went in with a few goals:

  1. To come up with a set of best practices for library design – a set of guidelines to help us understand the requirements of contemporary library buildings
  2. To take the first steps in formulating a way for the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program to help improve library facilities in the state’s very small libraries
  3. To understand where and how some libraries serve as de-facto resource locations for surrounding communities, and how that might affect building size requirements

After the Your Voice Your Library surveys last summer and a deep dive into the ARIS dataset, Sasaki produced a written report and an interactive website that’s helping us understand how important the cooperative system we have in Massachusetts is, and start to look as how this information might help shape the ecosystem in the future. It’s also become clear that this report is valuable to everyone in the MBLC and in libraries across the state – not just the construction program.

This is only the beginning of the process, though. We are now in the process of gathering responses and feedback from the library community, to help us determine what we do with this data, and we want to hear from you! As of this writing, there are still two more community meetings, scheduled on July 10 in Tewksbury and July 17 in Plymouth. We are also looking for volunteers for a statewide Ecosystem committee to guide us in where we go from here.

Take a look at the website at https://mblc.state.ma.us/ecosystem  and use the contact form there for your input, or you can email us at ecosystem@mblc.state.ma.us. We want your thoughts! You can learn more about the study here.

Get Your Garden Growing at your Local Library

The seed library at the McAuliffe Branch of the Framingham Public Library
The seed library at the McAuliffe Branch of the Framingham Public Library

If you’re planning on starting a garden this spring, your first step may be to stop by a Massachusetts library. From the Berkshires to Cape Cod, libraries across the Commonwealth have opened up “seed libraries” where you can get flower and vegetable seeds to start your gardening project. All you need is your library card!

Massachusetts isn’t the only state with seed libraries. In an article published by Atlas Obscura, it says that “Hundreds of public libraries around the U.S. have adopted similar initiatives to offer free seeds to library-goers” adding, “In less than a decade, (the) list of seed libraries has grown to include around 500 programs from Oakland to Dallas to Martha’s Vineyard. Many more are in early development stages…” In addition to the fun and excitement of growing your own garden, “Seed-sharing programs aim to expand access to crops and educate the public, while also protecting scarce agricultural resources.”

According to the Tower Hill Botanical Garden in Worcester, there are 26 seed libraries across Massachusetts where you can get a variety of plant seeds to begin your garden. Some seed libraries also contain heirloom varieties that are native to the region. Although you are welcome to all the seeds you need, some libraries ask that you be conscious of how much you take to guarantee that there will be enough seeds for everyone, and others may ask that you bring back some of the seeds you’ve grown at the end of the season to replenish the stock. If you have questions, call the library to find out more information about their rules and hours.

Gardening resources at the West Tisbury Public Library on display.
Gardening resources at the West Tisbury Public Library on display.

In addition to seeds, you can get important information on topics such as what you are planting, the best methods to grow, and how to care for a garden from the library’s resources and collection. Databases available through the MBLC and MLS offer gardening information on a variety of topics including growing veggies in a small space, controlling weeds without chemicals, and bugs that are beneficial to your garden. Some libraries even lend out gardening tools to help you get started. Contact your local library to find out what resources are available to you there.

This spring, before you head outside to garden, head inside to your local Massachusetts library to get all the seeds, information, and even tools you need to get going. Happy gardening!

Statewide eBook Sharing Evolves

By Greg Pronevitz, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Library System

Change doesn’t come from sitting on the sidelines, waiting. That’s certainly true for how the library community in Massachusetts has approached statewide eBook sharing. Six years ago the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) and the Massachusetts Library System (MLS) convened the Resource Sharing Unbound workshop. Faced with the inability to share eBooks in the same way we share print books, vendors who wouldn’t sell eBooks to libraries, and eBook pricing that was sometimes five times more than what consumers paid for the same eBook, librarians at this workshop agreed that statewide eBook sharing was a priority.

We’ve come a long way
A call to action went out to Massachusetts libraries that resulted in a modest eBook pilot project of 50 libraries in 2013.  Since then, the program known as the Commonwealth eBook Collections (CEC), has grown dramatically to 568 libraries of all types with access to over 100,000 items in Axis 360, BiblioBoard Library and Ebook Central.  The program provides a platform for marketplace advocacy and engages Massachusetts libraries in national discussions and initiatives to improve access to eBooks.

The Next chapter in eBooks
In the spring of 2017, the MLS, MBLC and the Automated Library Networks began exploring statewide eBook sharing options. Shortly thereafter, OverDrive proposed a pilot to connect the networks together into a single collection for library users. This pilot takes a major leap toward a true statewide eBook solution. In the fall, Minuteman, OCLN and SAILS joined the pilot and have since been working with OverDrive to develop this exciting solution for Massachusetts libraries.  MLS, MBLC and the Automated Library Networks plan to expand this pilot statewide.

What’s next
MLS and MBLC are pleased to announce that beginning July 1, 2018 OverDrive will be the new vendor for Commonwealth eBook Collections. Very soon, you’ll hear from MLS with more information about what this means for your library as well as information about the enrollment and the transition.  There’s much more to do, but we are excited about this transition. A true statewide eBook solution is close at hand!