Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Releases “An Evolving Ecosystem” Report


June 08, 2018
Matthew Perry
Outreach Coordinator
1-800-952-7403 x240

“Massachusetts Public Libraries: An Evolving Ecosystem” provides a unique, first of its kind look at how and why residents use public libraries across the Commonwealth. The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) commissioned this study in order to understand cooperative borrowing and use patterns of Massachusetts public libraries.

“This study is groundbreaking in the way that it looks at how residents of Massachusetts use not only their library, but all libraries across the Commonwealth” said Board Chair Mary Ann Cluggish. “The implications for this are vast, and the information can assist us in developing more sustainable library services in Massachusetts for both large and small libraries.”

The study and report were conducted by the Watertown-based firm, Sasaki. The project was started during the summer of 2017, when the MBLC conducted a statewide survey to better understand who uses Massachusetts Public Libraries, and why they use them. The short survey asked patrons which libraries they visit regularly and what they do there, including attending programs, using the internet, and checking out books or other media. Over 7,880 Massachusetts library users responded. Following the patron survey, a library staff survey was conducted in order to capture both sides of the library community. All paid staff and regular volunteers at public libraries within Massachusetts were encouraged to complete the survey and 700 responses were received.

The findings have categorized the Massachusetts Automated Networks into different types based on how the patrons in that network use their libraries. The three types are: Resource, which consist of larger Magnet libraries and smaller Core locations; Peer-to-Peer, which are Networks of similarly performing libraries in the greater metro Boston area; and Seasonal, which balances a fluctuating demand for services over the year due to the influx of patrons during the summer. The study tailors recommendations for each type Network in order to better serve their patrons.  The MBLC and Sasaki have put up an interactive website for exploration of these three stories and data comparisons between libraries.

The study provides statewide recommendations that have implications for many programs and services offered by the MBLC, including the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP). The MBLC will hold community meetings across the state in late June to gain feedback from the library community on the study.

Sasaki was founded in Boston, and now works internationally addressing the issues of architecture, interior design, planning, urban design, landscape architecture, strategic planning, graphic design, and civil engineering. They have a proven track record in understanding the library ecosystem, how user expectations are evolving, and how library services are changing to meet these expectations.

About MBLC

The Board of Library Commissioners ( is the agency of state government with the statutory authority and responsibility to organize, develop, coordinate and improve library services throughout the Commonwealth. The Board advises municipalities and library trustees on the operation and maintenance of public libraries, including construction and renovation. It administers state and federal grant programs for libraries and promotes cooperation among all types of libraries through regional library systems and automated resource sharing. It also works to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of their geographic location, social or economic status, age, level of physical or intellectual ability or cultural background, have access to essential new electronic information technologies and significant electronic databases.