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.
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.
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
By Lyndsay Forbes, Project Manager and Grant Specialist at the MBLC
As libraries have evolved over the years, so have the ideas of what they should collect and lend to their patrons. A visit to your local library today will offer so much more than books. It’s not anything against books, I promise. Sometimes the best way to meet a need is with something that’s a bit outside the book shelf.
Libraries have always made it their mission to make information accessible to all. To keep up with that goal, you have to be aware of how people are getting their information. Many libraries lend out broadband mobile hotspots. This device enables you to access the internet for free from any location. Internet access is vital in today’s world. Options like being able to borrow a mobile hotspot can help fill a gap among users.
Learning and libraries are natural partners. And sometimes the best way to learn is hands-on. With help from an LSTA grant, the Middleborough Public Library created STEAM backpacks and teacher kits you can take home. Are you on an astronomy kick? You can check out the night sky with a telescope from a nearby library. By approaching learning in an innovative way, libraries can provide additional means for exploring what interests you.
Libraries provide rich cultural and educational opportunities, both inside and outside their walls. One very popular and longstanding option you may already be familiar with is a museum pass program. Sign up at your local library to borrow a museum pass and get discounted or free admission to area museums, such as the Museum of Science or the Museum of Fine Arts. The Department of Conservation and Recreation ParksPass is also available at many libraries. This pass gives free parking at more than 50 facilities in the Massachusetts State Parks System that charge a day-use parking fee. Offsetting the cost of visiting these great places allows these experiences to be more accessible to a wide variety of people.
The option to try before you buy is another reason for offering a non-traditional collection. Want to test out your ukulele skills? The Forbes Library in Northampton has a variety of musical instruments it lends to card holders. Now you can practice at a basic level before making the jump to buy that banjo. The upstart cost of activities can make them out of reach for many individuals. Lending items like musical instruments helps break down these barriers.
The unique collections available can help you by providing items you’d use occasionally but you don’t want to (or can’t) store. Borrow a sewing machine from the Cary Memorial Library in Lexington when you have some mending to do. Get some friends together and ham it up with Reading Public Library’s Karaoke Machine. Bake all the cakes with the help of Brookline Public Library’s cake pan collection. By expanding the idea of what to lend, libraries take resource sharing to a whole new level.
Libraries strive to provide a place to explore ideas, connect individuals and groups, offer cultural and educational experiences, foster creativity, and enhance lives. With such lofty goals, you can see why today’s library goes beyond books.
Congratulations to all the applicants in the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP) 2016-17 Construction Grant Round. On July 13, the MBLC approved a total of $66,905,603 for provisional construction grant awards to nine libraries in the grant round. At the same time a new construction waiting list was established of libraries slated to receive provisional construction grant awards as funds become available through the program’s annual capital budget. For a list of libraries approved for provisional awards and placement on the waiting list, visit our website via the link at the end of this post.
It often takes years, or sometimes decades, to plan, design, fund and construct a new library building or complete an addition/renovation on an existing one. We know from experience that it is never too early to start the process.
If you are in a library that wants to explore the possibility of initiating a state-funded major capital improvement project, we are here to help. MBLC’s Library Building Specialists are happy to meet with you to see your library building, and talk about your current and future space needs and how MPLCP may be able to help. To schedule a meeting contact:
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:
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