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.

Chicopee Library is “Combining Good Ingredients”

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.

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!

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

What you may not know about the 2018 Bruins PJ Drive

By Celeste Bruno, Communications Director at the MBLC

Collecting PJs to give to DCF kids is a good thing and libraries across the state have pitched in to be community collection sites. The Boston Bruins set a lofty goal for libraries—10,000 pairs in just over a month—and while we’re still counting, here’s some fun things you may not know about this year’s PJ Drive:

  • A new record high of 146 libraries participated—that’s up from 93, just three years ago!
  • ALL of Boston Public Library’s branches participated.
  • Trustees at Norwood’s Morrill Memorial Library matched the PJs donated by the public—very nice!
  • The Boston Symphony made a generous donation of 100 PJ’s to Great Barrington’s PJ Drive
  • First Lady Lauren Baker did the chicken dance at Chicopee’s PJ and Pancake Dance Party!
  • The Bruins made a one-of-a kind Team Jersey for Jonathan Bourne Public Library—the entire team signed it!
  • This is the very first year that a library from every part of the state has participated: from the Berkshires to the Islands!
  • More than 50% of libraries reached or exceeded their goal in spite of four Nor’easters.
  • First Lady Lauren Baker gave a shout-out to libraries during her NESN interview during a Bruins game.

But please remember: No matter how many pairs of PJs you collected, each one makes a difference in the lives of the children who will wear them.

Thank you to all the libraries that help make this drive such a huge success.

Key Findings and Recommendations in School Library Report

By Judi Paradis, Librarian at Thomas R. Plympton Elementary School

The Special Commission on School Library Services in Massachusetts submitted its final report to the Legislature this month.  George Comeau served on this Commission representing the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.  The report of the Commission includes key findings regarding equity and access issues in the Commonwealth’s school libraries.  The Commission provided legislators with a series of recommendations for improving equity in Massachusetts public schools, and provided a comprehensive plan and timeline for their implementation.  In a letter to the Massachusetts Legislature, the Commissioners urged legislators to accept their recommendations and work with DESE to ensure their implementation.

The Commission, which included legislators, members of the library and educational communities, and community members, contacted two respected researchers to conduct a comprehensive academic study to evaluate school library programs for equity using a series of data points specified in legislation passed by the Massachusetts Senate in 2013 (Bill S. 1906).  The leading researcher, Dr. Carol A. Gordon, is a retired Associate Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science at Rutgers University where she served as the Co-Director of the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CISSL).  She was assisted by Dr. Robin Cicchetti, Head Librarian at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School.  The study was distributed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and data analysis assistance was provided by CISSL.

The Massachusetts School Library Study: Equity ad Access for Students in the Commonwealth provides a report of the research conducted by Drs. Gordon and Cicchetti along with five broad recommendations that as goals for a long-term plan.  The complete report is available on the website of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and you can find it here.  Analysis of the data and the resulting findings show there are statistically significant differences in measures of status and equity for students from urban and rural districts compared with students from suburban districts.  Based on these findings, the Commission  recommends:

Recommendation 1.0. Improve Access to School Libraries and School Librarians

  • Recommendation 1A. Every public school in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a school library and a certified school librarian.
  • Recommendation 1B. Establish the position and responsibilities of the School Library Curriculum Specialist at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
  • Recommendation 1C. Support a culture of inquiry in schools that sustains inquiry and resource-based learning, collaborative teaching, and the integration of digital technology to improve access for all students

Recommendation 2.0. Improve Access to Information Resources in School Libraries:

  • Recommendation 2A. Increase access to print resources in school libraries.
  • Recommendation 2B. Increase access to electronic resources in school libraries.

Recommendation 3.0. Improve Access to Information Technology:

  • Recommendation 3A. Improve access to Internet and digital devices in school libraries.
  • Recommendation 3B. Increase access to Information Technology through staffing.

Recommendation 4.0. Improve Access to Library Instruction and Help.

  • Recommendation 4A. Promote best instructional practices in the school library.

Recommendation 5.0. Improve Access to Funding:

Funding cuts across all the dimensions of school librarianship.  Guidelines for Budget Allocation and Expenditure should be developed to support Recommendations 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0.

The Commission thanks The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners for providing support for this important work.  We look forward to seeing our recommendations adopted to improve school library programs for all Massachusetts public school students.

A Guide to Town Meetings

This is a guest post from Patrick Borezo, Director of the Goodwin Memorial Library in Hadley

In November of 2017 voters in Hadley, Massachusetts let their voices be heard at the ballot box.  Hadley had made the historic decision to accept nearly four million dollars from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and to allocate the balance of funds needed to construct a new library. The Goodwin Memorial Library, constructed in 1902, would be replaced with a single story, fully accessible facility with greatly improved parking, collection capacity, and meeting space.

Hadley is a community of roughly 5,250 people with a town meeting form of government. Because town meetings are attended by a minority of residents the committee felt that it needed to mobilize between 300 and 500 supporters to deliver the needed two-thirds majority. This would be especially important in case of an organized opposition. The Committee’s Get Out the Vote strategy for both the special town meeting and ballot vote emphasized one-to-one communication between neighbors, particularly those who were likely to support the library. The use of attendance lists from previous Town Meetings was crucial in this process as it identified those who were already likely to attend based on previous behavior. GOTV volunteers attended brief strategy meetings and were each asked to contact ten to twenty residents who were seen as likely to support the library project. Volunteers asked each person contacted whether they would likely attend the special town meeting on the specified date and if the answer was affirmative they were also asked how many others from their household were likely to attend.  This effort worked as a running head count, but also as a way to gently remind likely supporters of the town meeting and its relevance to the library project if they were not already aware.

Additional efforts included a number of supportive letters to the editor of the local newspaper as well as several press releases that resulted in media coverage of the special town meeting. A small run of lawn signs (underwritten by the Friends of the Library) was distributed to the homes of supporters in the week leading up to special town meeting.

The special Town Meeting held on August 29th was attended by nearly 500 residents putting the hall at full capacity.  Some twenty to thirty people participated from the hallway which was used for overflow from the main room.  Roughly a dozen members of the public spoke articulately and passionately in support of the article from the floor. The final vote was 449 in favor with 28 opposed. The nearly unanimous sea of hands held up to vote “yes” was a powerful affirmation of the importance of the library and the services that it provides to this community.

The successful result at Special Town Meeting sent the borrowing question to a town-wide ballot on November 14, 2017.  The strategy for the vote was similar to the lead-up to Town Meeting, with the majority of effort going to reactivating those in attendance in August. Additionally, a town-wide mailing was undertaken and paid for by the Friends of the Library.  These postcards were mailed to every active postal address in town, rather than targeting supporters only. As in August, lawn signs were created with the slogan “Our Community, Our Library”.

Again, the operative assumption was that participation in the ballot vote would represent a minority of Hadley’s total population. To succeed at the ballot a simple majority is needed rather than two-thirds majority.  Ultimately 1,157 votes were cast.  683 in favor and 470 opposed (with four left blank).

Looking back over a process that began in earnest in the Spring of 2014 when Hadley accepted the MBLC’s Planning & Design Grant I have taken several lessons from our journey so far.  Most of these may seem like common sense, but I think they are all worth repeating.

  • Know your community, but don’t buy into all of its conventional wisdom.

We have all heard from community members who, claiming to know it very well, believe that it can never change.  This is especially true when there are memorable instances from the past where a divisive issue led to a bitter defeat for an important project.  Every campaign happens in its own context.  In being offered something worth the effort and risk each community has the opportunity to follow a new direction and write a new chapter. And who knows, perhaps the community that we thought we knew so well has changed a bit more than we anticipated.

  • Say, “Yes” as often as it is possible and practical to do so.

The early stages of planning are a great time to paint with a broad brush and think big.  An important part of building consensus is to hear from the community about what they think should be included in such a transformative project.  I was often surprised by how important the functional aspects of the proposed library were to residents who engaged with the planning process.  Would we have a green building? Can the Children’s Room be situated so as to contain noise and maximize safety? What about accessing the meeting rooms after hours? These kinds of questions arose far more than those relating to the appearance of the building, for instance. People could see the possibilities in the new library and asked us to consider many suggestions, some more practical than others.  As often as we could we said “Yes” in terms of at least considering any idea brought to us. Some of these ideas might not make it into the final plan, but all ideas were considered important enough to merit consideration. And if that “Yes” must ultimately become a “No” there would be a solid rationale to back up the decision.

  • Build consensus through transparency.

It is amazing what you can learn about yourself or the things you are working on “through the grapevine”. Scuttlebutt is a natural and unavoidable aspect of anything political.  Decisions made out in the open will be questioned rigorously, fairly or unfairly, but when the perception is that important decision-making is being made behind closed doors then trouble is sure to follow.  A savvy opponent will use any procedural mistakes made by a committee to undermine public confidence and slow down the process.  Always follow open meeting law and advertise meetings as widely as possible. Provide information as quickly and completely as possible, even when it is to someone working against your project, as is your obligation.  At the end of the day it’s the integrity of the process that matters and those in the community who are objectively on the fence may well be swayed by that integrity to help write a new chapter.