Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Food Drive

The Friends of the State Library will be hosting a food drive April 12 - 16 in observance of National Library Week to benefit the Greater Boston Food Bank. This organization donates more than 31 million pounds of food and groceries annually to nearly 600 hunger-relief agencies in eastern Massachusetts to end hunger. More than 394,000 people were served last year, an increase of 23% since 2005. With the economic downturn, the Greater Boston Food Bank is reaching out even more to acquire food for distribution to food pantries, shelters, and soup kitchens. Canned and shelf-stable foods can be dropped off in Rooms 341 or 442 of the Library located in the State House.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Digital Commonwealth Conference Summary

I want to begin by congratulating the Digital Commonwealth's conference staff for creating a day of interesting speakers and thoughtful dialog between colleagues. I came away from the conference with new ideas to expand the State Library's outreach work and a refreshed sense of excitement for the digital projects libraries in general, and the State Library in particular, are undertaking.

Tom Clareson provided the opening keynote address which focused on Fundraising for Your Digital Collection. The crux of Clareson's talk was that libraries need to think about the ways in which traditional grants can be repurposed to provide funding for particular aspects of digital projects. For instance, using a National Endowment for the Humanities Preservation Assistance Grant to survey library collections, which could turn up prospective collections for digitization, or using a NEH Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant to help organize and catalog collections, which will aid metadata creation. Clareson also emphasized the use of small grants as building the foundation for larger grant projects and thinking locally of potential funders, not just of the big federal resources. The talk concluded with a discussion of the functions of a grant proposal and some helpful do's and don't's when writing a grant. The number one do: describe a current condition in your community and clearly describe how your project will fill that need.

In the morning breakout session I attended From Artifact to Digital: Changes in Preservation Concerns, presented by Gregor Trinkaus-Randall and Bill Donovan. Trinkaus-Randall began by presenting an overview of the changes in traditional preservation methods, touching on security (such as at the Bodleian Library where books were chained to the shelves), the practice of silking, and deacidification, to name just a few. He also discussed the relation of information density to life expectancy, illustrating his point with a graph that showed as culture has moved from scroll to disc, the amount of information stored per inch has greatly increased, while the life expectancy of the storage media has greatly decreased. Trinkaus-Randall concluded by discussing the definition of digital preservation as defined by the American Library Association. Bill Donovan picked up the thread of digital preservation and spoke about MetaArchive Cooperative, a project between multiple cultural memory organizations to create a system of distributed digital preservation. The MetaArchive Cooperative was founded in 2004 with an emphasis on being a non-vendor based, peer to peer network that aids digital preservation through distributing multiple copies of (preferably open format) files to institutions in geographically dispersed sites. It was helpful and enlightening to hear about an institution taking digital preservation into their own hands in the goal of creating a lasting collection of digital content. Donovan ended by pointing the audience to a free resource: A Guide to Distributed Digital Preservation.

Over lunch conference goers were treated to the second keynote speaker, Roy Tennant, who discussed Engaging Users. Tennant began by speaking about discovery on the web and the two main types of users: natural affinity users and free-floating web users. The natural affinity users are those people who are, as Tennant put it, within "shouting distance" - users who may already know about your resources, or are affiliated with a group with a similar purpose to your institution. Free-floating web users are those people who find out about your resources through search queries or by following links. Tennant spoke about the importance of understanding both how people search for information on the internet and how Google crawls the web to populate its search results. After showing examples of important (and easy) ways to make web content more visible, he stressed the fact that libraries need to engage the passions of the patrons who discover their content by providing interactive aspects such as tagging, commenting, rating and reviewing. Tennant's talk provided helpful information for libraries performing at all points along the spectrum of web outreach and energized the audience to do even more for our web users.

The first afternoon breakout session I attended was Fix it or Sleeve it? Use it or Freeze it? - Conservation Assessment and Preparation for Digitization given by Priscilla Anderson. This session focused on preservation and conservation concerns surrounding the digitization process including preparing an item to be digitized, handling during the digitization process, and assessment of the original after digitization. Anderson began with the two main questions she asks about an item when digitization is suggested: 1. Is the text or image visible to the camera? and 2. Can the original withstand being handled? Anderson provided examples of when an item would not be visible to the camera (overlays, dirt, creases) and how to treat these problems prior to digitizing (removal of adhesive, surface cleaning, humidifying and flattening). She also discussed when an item might not be able to be handled (tears, brittle paper, vulnerable media) and how these problems are mitigated (mends, enclosures, scan on specialized equipment). Anderson also discussed various imaging equipment and the situations in which one might be favored over another, for example the use of an angled book scanner for volumes that cannot be opened fully. The session ended with a discussion of how storage options and locations might be reassessed once an item is digitized, with the intention that the original will be used less once a digital representation is available.

I ended my conference day by attending Metadata II given by Jim Keenan. While I was apprehensive about attending the second session without having attended the first, Keenan provided an upbeat and thoroughly accessible presentation on using XML within the Digital Commonwealth portal. The session began by refreshing everyone's memory regarding the tags used for Dublin Core and Keenan narrowed our focus to the 15 basic tags included in the metadata element set. Keenan stressed that while the Digital Commonwealth provided a tool kit and the ability to use Excel in lieu of XML, XML was not difficult to produce and that formatting your own metadata gave you increased control. He encouraged practicing making metadata records for mundane items (your pen, a flash drive) until you got the hang of it. As an example he walked the audience through creating a metadata record for our conference program, which helped put theory in to practice. Keenan also stressed the importance of starting with only a few records and going from there - don't think that you're going to put a 10,000 item collection into the Digital Commonwealth portal in two weeks. By taking your time and doing a little bit consistently, you (or your successor) will get all of those records done eventually. I left this session feeling that XML and Dublin Core were very accessible and that I wouldn't mind trying my hand at creating a few records.

The conference overall was a great experience that provided a wonderful variety of information for all different levels of experience. Be sure to check out the blogs below for more coverage of the conference and breakout sessions.

Henry Whittemore Library
Worcester Public Library

- Lacy Crews Stoneburner, Preservation Librarian

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fourth Annual Digital Conference: Afternoon Update

The Digital Commonwealth group has done a fabulous job packing the conference schedule with interesting speakers. Highlights so far have included a wonderful and energetic lunchtime talk from Roy Tennant about engaging web users, an overview of MetaArchive from Bill Donnovan of Boston College, and a discussion of processes for assessing collections prior to and after digitization from Priscilla Anderson of Harvard University. Check back to the blog tomorrow for full reports on these sessions and others.

- Lacy Crews Stoneburner, Preservation Librarian

Reporting from the Fourth Annual Digital Conference

The Digital Commonwealth is hosting the Fourth Annual Digital Conference and Vendor Fair today, March 25th, at the College of the Holy Cross. The State Library's blog was chosen as a host for reports on the keynote speakers and several breakout sessions.

The conference will feature two keynote speakers: Tom Clareson and Roy Tennant. Clareson will speak about fundraising for your digital collections and Tennant will speak about engaging users. Check back later today and tomorrow for reports from their talks.

Three breakout sessions will also be covered on the library's blog: From Artifact to Digital: Changes in Preservation Concerns; Fix it or Sleeve It? - Conservation Assessment and Preparation for Digitization; and Metadata II: Moving Forward with Metadata and XML. Look for reports from these sessions later today and tomorrow.

You can find other session summaries on these blogs: and

You can also follow the conference on Twitter, tag: #digicomm10

- Lacy Crews Stoneburner, Preservation Librarian

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Statistical Abstract

One of the most comprehensive compilations of information is produced yearly and is called the Statistical Abstract of the United States.

The State Library's collection starts in 1878 with the first edition and is current except for those few years that appear to be missing.

When the Abstract started, it was published by the Bureau of Statistics in the Treasury Department. From 1903 through 1911, it was issued by the Bureau of Statistics in the Department of Commerce and Labor. From 1912 through 1937, the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce was the resource; and from 1938 to now, it is the Bureau of the Census which produces the publication.

The Abstract contains statistics on political, social and economic issues in the United States. For instance, one can ascertain state gasoline tax rates or state motor fuel rates; attendance at sporting events; fires, etc.

The State Library has the most recent copy at the Reference Desk in Room 341. You can also access the Abstract on line at:

Bette Siegel
Documents Librarian

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Massachusetts State Songs and March

The State Library has the official march and songs of the Bay State. In its collection are the words and/or music for these:

"All Hail to Massachusetts", words and music by Arthur J. Marsh, was designated by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 2, § 19.

Glee Club Song
"The Great State of Massachusetts", words by George A. Wells and music by J. Earl Bley, was designated by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 2, § 43.

Folk Song
"Massachusetts", words and music by Arlo Guthrie, was designated by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 2, § 20.

Patriotic Song
"Massachusetts (Because of You our Land is Free)", words and music by Bernard Davidson, was designated by Mass. Gen. Law ch. 2, § 31. News stories about the composer's efforts to have the bill signed into law are held by the Library.

Ceremonial March
"The Road to Boston", composer unknown, was designated by Mass. Gen. Law ch. 2, § 27.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, March 15, 2010

Library Closed on Evacuation Day, March 17

The State Library will be closed Wednesday, March 17 in observance of Evacuation Day. On this day in 1776 the British Redcoats ended their occupation of Boston early in the American Revolutionary War. The siege of Boston came to a close when the Continental Army, under George Washington, fortified Dorchester Heights with cannons captured at Ticonderoga. The British forces withdrew from Dorchester Heights to Nova Scotia as depicted in this engraving.

Monday, March 8, 2010


The prospect of building casinos in Massachusetts is very much in the news today. A recent Sunday Boston Globe (January 10th, 2010 page C1) had an interview with State Senator Stan Rosenberg, who has travelled around the country to garner information about the overall issue of casinos.

The State Library has numerous reports and overall holdings on this timely subject in the online catalog. Also, the Special Collections Department of the Library collects papers from legislators and other public figures, usually when they leave office. The papers of former Representatives Mary Jeannette Murray and George Rogers contain materials relating to the casino issue. Finally, please note that there are other blog entries about casinos, and these can be found by using the labels assigned to this one.

Pamela W. Schofield
Reference Department

Friday, March 5, 2010

Keys to the City

As an intern in the Special Collections department, I am always excited when I learn something new about the collection. A couple days ago, the preservation librarian, Lacy, showed me this key to the city of Boston. She found it in the vault in a collection of medals. When we looked through the collection again, we found another ceremonial key to the city of Lynn that was presented during the city’s tercentennial celebration. Both keys are gold in color with designs representing the city etched on each side. To give an example, the Lynn key has a pair of high heels on the handle to pay homage to the city’s history as a major center in the shoe industry.

Keys like these two are presented by the mayor to honor individuals for their civic services, or personal or career achievements. The tradition of awarding these keys stems from the Middle Ages when walls surrounded cities and travelers entered through gates. The keys represented free and easy entry into the city as well as trust and respect. I was a bit surprised by the size of the keys. When I think of ceremonial presentations I think about comically oversized checks and I expected the keys to be just as big. Each key is about the size of a skeleton key to an old house, but the key is slightly larger than the Lynn key.

I did a little research about keys presented by the mayor of Boston in the City Record. The City Record documents events and news in Boston and the activities of Boston’s mayor. In the 1925 volume, I found several articles concerning events where Mayor James Michael Curley presented keys. Two articles in particular caught my attention. One was a short note from the Chinese General Consul Ziangling Chang, thanking Mayor Curley for his hospitality and the key to his city. The other article described a visit by the Belgian ambassador to Boston. Mayor Curley presented him a key and accepted a Belgian flag in return. If you are interested in conducting further research, I suggest searching local newspapers and the Zimmer Index for articles about key recipients in Boston and other cities.

Marietta Carr, Special Collections Intern

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Massachusetts Women in Politics Exhibit, Now Open

The Library is excited to present our new exhibit, “Women in Massachusetts Politics.” The exhibit highlights important women in the state’s political history and their accomplishments. Included is a timeline showing important events and people, and a display on the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators, celebrating their 35th anniversary.

The exhibit brings to light women such as Sybil Holmes, the first female state senator. While working at a law firm, Holmes studied law privately and passed the bar in 1910 at age 21. She later studied at both Harvard and Columbia law schools. Holmes served as an assistant attorney general for four years before being elected to the General Court in 1936.

Other women in the exhibit include Susan Fitzgerald and Sylvia Donaldson, who were the first women elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. They were elected in 1923, just three years after the 19th Amendment was passed. Susan Fitzgerald studied political science and history at Bryn Mawr, where her three daughters later studied. She was a strong advocate for women’s suffrage and served in many different organizations to attain the right to vote. Fitzgerald wrote essays to promote equal rights for women, such as "Women in the Home," 1908, "What is a Democracy?" 1910, and "Have We a Democracy?" 1913.

Outside of the state legislature, women made important strides in local government. Alice Burke was elected mayor of Westfield in 1939, becoming the first female mayor not just in Massachusetts, but in all of New England as well. She beat the incumbent by just 127 votes and went on to serve for three more terms. Burke would become known as the Grand Dame of Westfield for her active role and many contributions to the community.

The exhibit shows how far women have come in Massachusetts politics, but also how far there is to go. In 1971, there were only four women in the legislature, out of a total of 300 seats (1.3%). In 2010, there are 52 women, out of a total of 200 seats (26%). The first female senate president, Therese Murray, was only elected in March 2007; and no woman has been elected as speaker of the House. The sole exception is Sylvia Donaldson, who was declared honorary speaker for one day, February 18, 1926. Massachusetts has yet to send a woman to the U.S. Senate; and of the twelve legislators representing the state in Washington, D.C., only one is a woman (Niki Tsongas, 5th District). As women comprise 52% of the Massachusetts population, they are not only underrepresented in national government but in the government of our own state.

This exhibit celebrates the hard work and achievements won by the women of Massachusetts. We hope you will come to view the exhibit, which is now open. The State Library is located on the third floor, Room 341, in the State House in Boston. Please visit our website at for more information regarding hours and directions.

Above: Members of the Caucus of Women Legislators outside the House of Representatives, December 1990.