COVID-19 and Massachusetts Public Libraries


March 18, 2020
Celeste Bruno
Communications Director
1-800-952-7403 x208

Amid the growing concerns surrounding COVID-19, many Massachusetts Public Libraries have closed or have limited in-person services. The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) is tracking what’s happening in the library community. “It’s changing every day,” said MBLC Director James Lonergan. “We’re working to keep librarians informed and patrons connected to digital library services.”

Library delivery suspended
Library delivery, which moves items requested by patrons between libraries, has also been suspended. The Massachusetts Library System (MLS), which runs delivery, will continue to assess the situation, “I ask for your patience in advance as we go through this unprecedented time together, said MLS Director Sarah Sogigian.  MLS and MBLC have coordinated information for libraries on

24/7 access
While many libraries are temporarily closing their physical doors, librarians are reminding patrons that they have access to eBooks, audiobooks, streaming media, and online research databases. “In Massachusetts, we’re fortunate to have a rich and extensive variety of digital library resources,” said Lonergan.  Last year library networks began working together to form LEA (Library eBooks and Audiobooks) which gives patrons access to more than 350,000 eBooks and audiobooks accessible through, along with other digital resources. Some librarians have moved to virtual story times and librarians are working to come up with creative ways to keep patrons connected to their libraries.

State Aid flexibility
The MBLC has also announced flexibility in its State Aid to Public Libraries program. The program, which provides the basis for statewide resource sharing, has several requirements that libraries must meet in order to be certified in the program.  “I want to assure everyone that closure for a pandemic would be considered an emergency closure in the same way libraries close for other health and safety reasons. Library Certification would/will not be impacted if you reduce hours or are required to close,” said Mary Rose Quinn, Head of State Programs. Commissioners will consider further adjustments to the program at the April virtual Board Meeting.

Updates to MBLC services can be found at

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.