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 The next visit was with the Town Clerk’s Office, who maintain and preserve some of Eastham’s oldest legal and historical documents (among many other responsibilities!).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!

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.   

Libraries in the news (August/September 2016)

Millis library a finalist for historic documents grant

Home to numerous aging documents dating back to the 1700s, the Millis Public Library is in the running to win a grant to digitize the documents for future generations. “When you’re in Boston or Concord, you think, of course, the Revolutionary War happened here,” said Alexander Lent, library director. “But it also happened in Millis.” That is the kind of history Lent wants to protect from future damage by using funds from the Hopkinton-based EMC Heritage Trust Project. (Boston Globe)

Editorial: Keep the light at Brooks Library

It has been a difficult time for Brooks Free Library, the municipal library in Harwich Center, with technical problems that have nearly crippled the institution over the past couple of weeks. With failed lighting circuits, the library has had to shut off access to the building at a time of year when that library is the center of this community, serving more patrons that other libraries of similar size on the Cape. It is the oversight of that library which makes it so popular. Library Director Ginny Hewitt does a tremendous job on a daily basis there. (Cape Cod Chronicle)

SouthCoast programs help keep kids safe, active until school reopens

Libraries that see high usage in the summer are often an obvious choice for free programs while school is out. On a busy Saturday last month, parents and their children participated in a reading project and made ring tosses at the New Bedford Public Library downtown. One-year-old Dylan Kish tossed a paper ring onto a small pole as his mother Meghan Kish and brother Alex Kish looked on. Library Director Olivia Melo said each library has different programs and all are free to the public. A live calendar is available online. The last two weeks had about 17 children participate downtown. (SouthCoast Today)

On your mark, get set, read at Lynn Public Library

On your mark, get set, read. That’s the theme of this summer’s statewide reading program and fit nicely with Lynn Public Library’s bike giveaway Thursday. “I was just very excited because I really needed a new bike,” said 9-year-old Sadiejon Galland, who won a new bike. “My old one is starting to fall apart a lot.” Ten bicycles and two big wheels were distributed as part of the Read and Ride program of the Grand Lodge Knights of Pythias of Massachusetts. (Itemlive)

Jayson Pereira checks the new bike he wonat the Lynn Public Library
Five-year-old Jayson Pereira, of Lynn, checks out the new bike he won in a raffle at the Lynn Public Library. (Photo credit: Paula Muller)

State officials inspire kids to read

This summer, the MBLC challenged all Massachusetts residents to choose four books to read over the summer and share them on social media to encourage others to read as well. The “What’s Your Four?” campaign launched because children who read just four books over the summer fare better on reading comprehension tests in the fall, compared with their peers who read one or none. (MBLC News)

mayor walsh's summer reading list - leonard: my fifty year friendship with a remarkable man by william shatner, a lucky irish lad by kevin o'hara, bound for the promised land by kate clifford larson, and waking up white by debbie irving
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh shared his summer reading picks. It’s not too late to join in and tell us: #WhatsYourFour?

Too poor to afford the Internet

All summer, kids have been hanging out in front of the Morris Park Library in the Bronx, before opening hours and after closing. They bring their computers to pick up the Wi-Fi signal that is leaking out of the building, because they can’t afford internet access at home. They’re there during the school year, too, even during the winter — it’s the only way they can complete their online math homework. (New York Times)

The purpose-based library

Some of you would argue that your library is a nonprofit organization and is not competing with anyone. We beg to differ. Every customer has a choice and chooses whether to go to the library website or Google’s search bar, to either engage the library or order materials from Amazon. Amazon would much rather have its customers buy a book than borrow, and Google would much rather have information seekers search its website than seek out a reference or research librarian. There is no question that libraries compete head-to-head with these for-profit businesses. (American Libraries)

The strange affliction of ‘library anxiety’ and what librarians do to help

In a few short weeks, bright-eyed college freshmen will be ambling onto campuses and into their first lectures. Which means a whole lot of newly minted undergrads are about to get freaked out by their on-campus libraries. Library anxiety is real. The phenomenon, which involves feeling intimidated, embarrassed, and overwhelmed by libraries and librarians, was first identified by Constance A. Mellon in 1986. Her paper, “Library Anxiety: A Grounded Theory and Its Development,” reported that college students in particular are prone to library anxiety because they believe their research skills are inadequate, which makes them feel ashamed and unwilling to talk to the very librarians who might be able to ease their worries. (Atlas Obscura)

summer reading final event and prize winners
Photos from the Mattapan Branch of the Boston Public Library’s final summer reading event, where participants made seed bombs and won prizes. “Grandma won a FitBit Zip, Mom won a Gaiam back fitness kit, our young helper won a cool ball, and 3 participants each won a one-day fun pass to the Kroc Center!” (@mattapanbranchbpl on Facebook)

5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know Are In The Digital Commonwealth

The MBLC is now accepting applications for this year’s Town-Wide Preservation Assessment grant round. It’s an opportunity for Massachusetts libraries to work with a consultant to help them assess, organize, and ultimately digitize their historic and archival collections in the Digital Commonwealth.

Right now, there’s over 440,000 items from 130 participating institutions in this statewide digital repository. It’s a great tool for educators, historians, researchers, students, artists, authors – anybody with an interest in exploring the past through ultra-high resolution photographs, maps, letters, books, paintings, postcards, and more.

With so much content, there’s some bizarre and unexpected stuff tucked in as well. Below are five highlights from four of the most unique collections in the Digital Commonwealth.

1. Birdwing butterflies from the Solomon Islands, part of the Harry C. Belcher Lepidoptera Collection at Tufts Library in Weymouth.

birdwing butterflies from the Solomon Islands

2. Pheasant sculptures from the Castonguay Carved Bird Collection at West Yarmouth Library.

carved pheasant scupltures

3. Food pouches from the Natick Soldier Systems Center Photographic Collection.

food lab food pouches

4. 1974 photo of the “Smithsonian Center for Short-Lived Phenomena” in Belmont, part of the Boston Public Library’s Spencer Grant collection. (By the way, this place actually existed – but fittingly enough, only from 1968-1975.)

Smithsonian Center for Short-Lived Phenomena computers and bulletin board

5. Robot (ca. 1991) at the Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center. Also from the Natick Soldier Systems Center Photographic Collection.

robot at Natick r&d and engineering center