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.
Groce, Nora Ellen .Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha’s Vineyard. Harvard University Press, 1995.
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
Shopping for Statewide Databases : Chasing the Best Value for the Commonwealth
By Paul Kissman, MBLC Library Information Systems Specialist
We’ve just completed a procurement process for the next set of statewide databases, a fifteen month long odyssey. There were moments that put me in mind of those old shopping-themed TV game shows. Some days we were contestants on Supermarket Sweep, as we frenetically raced the clock to put as much quality content in the cart as possible before the bell rang. At other times, we were competing on The Price is Right, guessing at that ineffable figure, the actual dollar value of a database.
But it was no game, and there were no big prize winners at the end. With a 30% reduction in funding we knew right from the start that the results of our efforts were going to be bittersweet. We are proud of what we accomplished, and Massachusetts libraries will continue to have a strong core set of databases. But we also know that we have lost access to some very important products; our shared resources are that much smaller.
Where Do We Stand and How Did We Get Here?
Beginning July 1, Massachusetts libraries will have the same three vendors and a set of database products that looks an awful lot like what we have today — just diminished.
Some of you may wonder, “Why all the sound and fury then? Why the big process?” Are we complacent, taking the path of least resistance? Maybe we lack the courage to try something new or maybe we have a hidden bias in favor of the incumbent vendors and familiar products.
Though we heard from many libraries and invited input along the way, including a month-long open trial and vendor demonstrations to representative stakeholders, our decision-making process may look like a black box to many of you. Without going into the gory details, here is what the procurement looked like from the inside.
Peeking Under the Hood
Who exactly sets the stage and makes the final procurement decisions? MBLC and MLS, with a sprinkling of Library for the Commonwealth. These three organizations have worked hard to complement each other’s offerings. With shrinking budgets and other critical priorities we can’t afford not to. Though I’d like to think we would anyway.
MBLC appointed an advisory committee of ten very smart and knowledgeable librarians from academic, school and public libraries to help guide us through this process. They were content specialists — the ones doing bibliographic instruction, working with teachers, students and the general public every day. Their contributions were incredibly valuable. They each represented their own library types’ interests but showed great sensitivity to how different products would be valued by users of all types of libraries. Not an easy thing to do. They analyzed product titles to gauge full-text content, overlap, uniqueness and value. I came out of the process with tremendous respect for their skills and experience, and I am grateful that they were there every step of the way. Thanks guys!
We first began to experiment with databases for all regional members twenty years ago. Gale/Cengage, then Information Access Company, was our first provider with some general periodical content. Since that time we have run five procurements and have contemplated many approaches. We’ve considered targeted solutions for different library types: school-centric products for schools, more specialized databases for our academics and special libraries, local newspaper products only available to parts of the state. We’ve tried creating a market basket, where preferential pricing was offered for libraries or groups wishing to supplement what the state could offer. Five years ago, we managed to expand the subject areas and types of resources, asking for genealogy and language learning products, both general and specialized encyclopedias. Though the genealogy and language products didn’t pan out, we were able to add a general encyclopedia for the first time.
We have to find products that appeal to all types of libraries. The scope of the our procurement is determined by usage statistics and surveys. Usage statistics are necessarily limited to current product offerings. However, when establishing the procurement scope, we only use these statistics to draw inferences about subject coverage, not about particular titles from particular vendors. The only exception to this rule is The Boston Globe, a specific title. A large library survey in the spring of 2016 gave us broader insight into library preferences.
Why Do We Always Seem to End Up with the Same Vendors?
The answer is fairly straightforward. They have consistently provided the best value for the Commonwealth. It doesn’t mean that this will always be the case.
In the past we’ve disqualified vendors because they could not demonstrate the capability to roll out services statewide, work with our statewide login process (geolocation for users in Massachusetts) or set up 1,600+ library accounts. They couldn’t provide interoperability with library discovery systems and knowledgebases, provide granular usage statistics and related management tools. Not this time. All six vendors were sufficiently qualified.
We try really hard to be objective and open to new solutions. I know that I get enthused about new products, new platforms, new vendors. I also like to see the progress that familiar companies have made with their user interfaces. From one procurement cycle to the next, the three big periodical vendors, EBSCO, ProQuest and Gale seem to leapfrog past each other in user interface design and usability . This time around all three main platforms were really solid, with contemporary interfaces providing excellent user experience. That hasn’t always been the case.
From the library community we hear competing interests. Some academics have urged us to license EBSCO so they can repurpose their limited budgets. Public libraries and schools may not want us to change vendors because then they would have to extensively retool and retrain patrons.
There is no alchemical mixture of intangibles at work here. As with any rigorous procurement, we use weighted score sheets to evaluate the various components of each proposal. Content (which is weighted most heavily), organizational qualifications, technical qualifications, ability to license to all our users, all are evaluated and quantified. Cost is the last factor we look at.
What’s on Offer
It is important to remember, we can only evaluate what the vendors propose. Sometimes librarians will ask why we didn’t license a particular product. Often the answer is, “It wasn’t proposed”. Sometimes products are simply out of scope. Sometimes proposed packages don’t provide enough valuable content to schools, or academics, or even to public libraries.
Sometimes there is not a good business case from the vendor perspective. We can’t afford to replace the large base of existing academic contracts for products like Academic Search Premier from EBSCO. EBSCO has indicated that a statewide offering this comprehensive would be way beyond our means and so they don’t propose it. Thus, academic libraries see they will need to keep their EBSCO contracts, but they also find tremendous value in Gale Academic OneFile as a complement to their own locally-licensed content.
The Globe is the Globe. We reached out directly to both the Boston Globe and New York Times, but they declined to bid. For the Globe, ProQuest was the only game in town.
Encyclopedias – World Book and Britannica were both highly esteemed products. Britannica appealed more to public and academic libraries, as World Book seemed more targeted to K-9. At the end of the day, Britannica had the broadest appeal, and was the product that we could afford.
So here we are, entering a new fiscal year with old friends. We ended up here for good reasons. Maybe next time around things will turn out differently.
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.
Massachusetts libraries are collaborating with the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum to celebrate President Kennedy’s 100th birthday and “Build a Better World” as part of the ongoing Centennial Celebration at the JFK Library! This nationwide celebration commemorates one of our Nation’s great Statesmen and proud resident of Massachusetts.
The MBLC has worked with the library to create materials for the Statewide Summer Library Program. This summer’s theme is fittingly, “Build a Better World”. These materials are designed to help people of all ages understand how President Kennedy’s life work has touched so many, and continues to resonate today.
Three toolkits are available, with one for children, teens, and adults, and include biographies of President Kennedy and his family, fast facts about President Kennedy, an interactive look at the President’s desk, film footage documenting the Kennedy family, a selected bibliography of books, and more. The toolkits are available on the MBLC’s public portal and can be found here.
Visit your local library to check out books, and get commemorative posters, bookmarks, and reading lists featuring John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy, and to sign your family up for the Summer Reading Program.
The Library: a World History came out a few years ago and I did a blog post to the short-lived MBLC Construction Blog in January of 2014. I wanted to share it here because it was such a great read.
The book was written by James W.P. Campbell, with photographs by Will Pryce. I saw the review and it sounded interesting, but to be honest I thought I’d ooh and aah over the photos and put it on the shelf.
Au contraire. I started reading the introduction and I realized that this was not just a doorstop with pretty pictures. I’m about half-way through and I have learned about form and design in the library building type from ancient Sumer to the late nineteenth century. I’ve gleaned some great cocktail party conversation starters. For example, did you know that most of the knowledge we have about the earliest libraries is because of fire? Clay tablets, usually just baked in the sun, were “fired” when their building burned. These hardened tablets are the ones that have survived, in contrast to the total destruction of papyrus, vellum and paper in fires. Later libraries were entirely lit by daylight until the advent of electricity, since the potential destruction by lamps or torches was so great.
As the format and production of books evolved, so did the spaces and shelving styles that house them: from lecterns to alcoves to perimeter shelving; from chained books to grillwork cabinets to open shelves. We think we have it bad now, with collections growing out of the available space – imagine the poor librarians right after the printing press was invented! Collections, literacy rates and the services required grew exponentially.
The 21st century is the first time since Gutenberg that the shape of libraries has been determined by something other than printed books. People are using public libraries in unprecedented numbers. They want access to collections, sure, but they also want internet via library stations and wi-fi, programs and activities, and just a place to hang out. Libraries have become the de facto community center in many places, and people take up more space than books do.
We’re in a period of great flux now, and it’s harder than ever to answer the question “what will libraries be like in 20 years?” Over the last several decades, librarians have proven to be masters of resilience and flexibility; our buildings must reflect that flexibility. Mobile technology, furniture and shelving with a welcoming atmosphere and a philosophy of service is the model that seems to be working. We have to be ready for anything.
Postscript: this fabulous quote from the book shows that some things never change:
“The results of Beaux-Arts planning were all too often libraries in which librarians worked in increasingly impractical layouts, designed to look good on plan rather than function well in reality. This was the tyranny of the symmetrical plan.” –p. 225
On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere took his famous ride through Middlesex County warning the residents that British troops were marching west towards Lexington and Concord. The following day, the American Revolution began with battles fought in those two towns. We remember that famous date and year on the 3rd Monday of April, now known as “Patriots Day”. Although it may be better known today as “Marathon Monday”, Patriots Day is still marked with parades and reenactments in both Lexington and Concord, as well as a reenactment of Paul Revere’s ride in Boston’s North End.
You don’t have to settle for just a reenactment however, because at the Bedford Free Public Library, there is a piece of history that links back to that day sitting upstairs. As Minutemen from the surrounding towns gathered to help in the fight against the British, Bedford’s Nathaniel Page took what is now known as “the Bedford Flag” with him to the Old North Bridge in Concord. According to the library’s website, it “is the oldest complete flag known to exist in the United States.” The exact origins of the flag are unknown, but it is believed to be a cavalry flag produced in Massachusetts sometime in the early 1700s.
The library’s website elaborates on what the flag looks like:
The flag is a piece of crimson silk damask measuring about 27” long by 29” wide. This small square shape indicates that it was a cavalry flag. Into the rich red damask is woven a pattern of pomegranates, grapes, and leaves. The design is painted on both sides of the flag, mainly in silver and gold. The emblem consists of a mailed arm emerging from clouds and grasping a sword. Three cannonballs hang in the air. Encircling the arm is a gold ribbon on which the Latin words “VINCE AUT MORIRE” (Conquer or Die) are painted. On the reverse of the flag, the design is slightly different: the sword extends in front of the ribbon instead of behind; it is held left-handed; and the motto is read from bottom to top instead of top to bottom.
The library has been in possession of the flag since the late 1800s. In 1998, it was taken to the Textile Conservation Center in Lowell Massachusetts to be restored and preserved for future generations to enjoy.
“Bedford is very proud of the Flag” says library director Richard Callaghan, adding “when the Library addition was completed in 2000, funds were donated to display the flag properly, so now it has its own climate controlled, secure room.”
Any visitor to the library is allowed to view the flag in its secure room during the library’s normal hours. In order to see it, stop by the main desk and in exchange for your ID, you are given a magnetic key card to the room where the flag is held. Only five people can be in the room at a time, and no flash photography is allowed.
This year, as you’re getting ready to celebrate our Country’s push for independence, consider stopping by the Bedford library and seeing a flag that was there to witness it all first hand. The Bedford Flag is one of many great treasures found in Massachusetts Libraries. For more information about the flag, and the Bedford Library’s hours, visit their website at http://www.bedfordlibrary.net/.
Opening Day is getting so close you can start to feel it; the days are getting longer, the snow is melting, and the air is getting warmer. Pretty soon we’ll be back to the pennant race, but for now there is still more time to wait until the first pitch.
To fill this gap, you can find books, pictures, newspaper articles and more from your local library to satisfy your baseball needs until opening day rolls around.
Because baseball is the sport that best lends itself to literature, reading may be the best way to get excited for the new season. Baseball has been the muse for countless authors since its earliest days as a sport. Concord resident and Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s memoir “Wait Till Next Year” tells her story of growing up in New York when the Dodgers, Giants, and Yankees all competed for the city’s loyalty. “Ball Four” is former Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton’s diary of the 1969 season as he tried to restart his career with the expansion Seattle Pilots as a knuckleballer. Bernard Malamund’s classic “The Natural” is probably more famous for its film adaptation starring Robert Redford, but the book (Malamund’s first) is just as good. All of these books and many more baseball classics can be found through the Commonwealth Catalog.
If the early history of the game is what piques your interest, you can find information and artifacts through Biblioboard’s baseball anthology. It has early rules, how to guides, pictures, and histories to educate and entertain you.
You can find more of Boston’s baseball history at the Digital Commonwealth. Search through old photos of the Red Sox, the Boston Braves, and the teams that have visited Boston to take on the hometown teams.
If all of this isn’t enough, and you just want to relive the recent Red Sox glory days, head over to www.mass.gov/libraries and search through the archives of the Boston Globe to take yourself back to 2004, 2007, and 2013, and feel like you’re winning the World Series with the Sox all over again.
We hope that you enjoy these fun resources all season long as you kick back with some peanuts, Cracker Jacks, and root, root, root for your home team.
What is the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry right now? According to an Audio Publishers Association sales survey, it is audiobooks.
The Wall Street Journal reports “35,574 audiobook titles were released in the U.S. and Canada in 2015, compared with 7,237 in 2011.” They go on to explain that “People listen to audiobooks while traveling, exercising, gardening and relaxing at home. They switch devices from one activity to the next, listening on smartphones, tablets, computers and MP3 players.”
What is even more exciting is that libraries are taking notice too, and there is an expanding collection of audiobooks available for Massachusetts residents to enjoy for free. Through the Commonwealth eBook Collections (CEC) and other services offered through your local library, you can borrow and listen to hundreds of today’s top titles. All you need to access these titles is a library card!
To listen to audiobooks through the CEC, visit www.commonwealthebookcollections.com and simply search for the title you’re looking for. In addition to audiobooks, you will also find eBooks and other digital resources that you can use.
If your library is not a member of the CEC, visit the Boston Public Library’s website to learn how you can access their digital materials as a Massachusetts resident through their role as the Library for the Commonwealth (http://www.bpl.org/collections/downloadable.htm), or contact your local library and they will point you in the right direction to begin listening to your favorite books.
Now, when you are preparing for a road trip, doing yardwork, or just looking for something to listen to around the house, you can enjoy some great audiobooks courtesy of your local library. Happy listening!
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.
To me, one of the joys of summer is finding a good book and reading it on the beach. There is nothing quite like the warm air and bright sunshine to make reading extra enjoyable. What made it even better this year was helping to inspire children to read and avoid the summer slide while they were out of school, through our first ever “What’s Your Four?” campaign.
Although I now enjoy reading during the summer as an adult, it was not always my favorite activity growing up, and I always needed a little encouraging. I was not alone. Many children and teens have a hard time reading over the summer, despite the academic benefits that it has been proven to give. In fact, teachers generally spend 4-6 weeks re-teaching what students forgot over the summer at the beginning of the school year. It has also been shown that having reading role-model parents or a large book collection at home has a greater impact on kids’ reading frequency than does household income, and that 92% of children and teens say they are more likely to finish a book that they picked out themselves2. Knowing all of this, we decided to do something this summer to try and get kids reading more.
We challenged all residents to choose four books to read over the summer months in a campaign we called “What’s Your Four?” The idea was to encourage children, teens, and adults to read by having Massachusetts residents post four books that they chose to read to social media. It is four books because students who read four or more books over the summer achieve better on reading comprehension tests in the fall than their peers who read 1 or fewer books.
In total, we had over 450 posts that used the hashtag #WhatsYourFour, and from these posts, we’ve compiled a list of the over 550 books that have been recommended by participants. These books range from cookbooks, to children’s stories, graphic novels, and biographies. We had responses from the Berkshires to Provincetown, and many local libraries and their staffs got involved to share what was on their reading lists.
The top four books that were recommended by participants on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were:
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub, about a group of college friends in New York City, who now have their own children going to college.
A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman, about a grumpy old man who warms up after a young family moves in next door.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, a sequel to the famous Harry Potter series, the book is the script to the play of the same name.
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, about a dysfunctional wealthy family and its children’s inheritance.
Massachusetts Politicos also got involved and sent over their summer reads. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Attorney General Maura Healey, Treasurer Deb Goldberg, Auditor Suzanne Bump, State Representative Jim Dwyer, Secretary of Education Jim Peyser, and New Bedford Mayor Jonathan Mitchell all shared four books to encourage children, teens and adults from around the Commonwealth to read.
As the air starts to cool and school starts again, reading will shift for many from pleasure to academic. We hope that just how memories of the beach stave off the cold on a snowy January day, the memory of a good book will remind everyone of a great summertime, and will encourage them to continue reading throughout the whole year. You can see a full recap of the “What’s Your Four” campaign here.
Lasting Consequences of the Summer Learning Gap, Karl Alexander, Doris Entwistle, Linda Steffel Olson, April 2007.
The Kids and Family Reading Report™ 4th edition conducted by Harrison Group and Scholastic, 2012.
Summer Reading and the Ethnic Achievement Gap, Jimmy Kim, Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 2004.