Day of Libraries!!

So yesterday we dared to do the impossible. Well maybe not the impossible, but it was still quite a feat! The student chapter of the Special Library Association at Simmons put together a tour of tours. We visited 5 libraries in one day. The amazing thing about this was that they were all in the same block of each other, and two of them were in the same building! Pretty impressive. Who knew that there was so much awesome library goodness that close to each other? So a very big thank you to SLA to putting it all on and providing food and all sorts of library coolness yesterday! Below is, in order of our day, a little rundown of what we saw and links to the sites of the libraries so you can learn a bit more if you choose.

Now I am not quite sure what took me so long to come visit the Athenaeum. It is just incredible and an absolutely beautiful building. It was opened in 1807 as a membership library and remains one today. They have more than 600,000 titles in its book collection. They also have an impressive art collection as well as extensive special collections. They have several reading rooms for their members, an awesome children’s room, a room dedicated to art and photography, and a huge conservation area as well to care for the items in their collection. The website is super informational and has their whole catalog up there as well, including, what I thought was the coolest, playbills from the 1920s that you can explore online.
The other two things that I thought were especially cool at the Athenaeum was learning about the design contests they had in the early years when building new sections of the library. Many members have written books about the Athenaeum as well. There is one book, Culture Club by Katherine Wolff that is about the “curious history of the Boston Athenaeum” that I will now be adding to my ever-growing list of books to read!

Our next stop was the Social Law Library that is also a membership library. Most of their members are attorneys, either as a firm or as individuals. They have a current collection of all law that is out there basically. They spend about $2m/year on books and databases to keep that collection current. State agencies can use the library for free. What was different about this library was the eclectic kind of staff they have. They keep a graphic designer on staff as well as someone to deal with external affairs like grants and donations. They also publish many databases that include specific information about Massachusetts. I’ll have to remember that for future research! Their collection includes 600,000 volumes and every year they are re re-allocating how they spend the budget. They really seem to operate like a business which is what they should be doing, at least in terms of budgeting, etc. Everything circulates for the most part and they deal mostly with people who have legal background/experience.
In the same building are the two highest courts in the State so we got to check out those as well. Pretty cool:)

Well this is actually where I volunteer once a week. I really enjoy it. But mostly because I get to go to the State House once a week and I’m a big political geek! The State Library was opened in 1826 and in the recent years has really had to fight to remain open. It is unimaginable to me how you would close a State Library. Especially after really hearing how many items they hold and are responsible for preserving. The library is basically a law, public affairs, and governmental library. So they really have some of everything! They are the official depository for Massachusetts documents. So every time a state agency publishes a report they are required to give eight copies to the State Library. They keep two and the rest are passed on to other organizations. Most of the library’s use comes from remote users (which again makes it more difficult to demonstrate usage). They have 80,000 downloads/month from remote users! They are currently involved in several collaborations with other groups to get more of the documents online and ready to access by the public. Much of this work is done through the Internet Archive project located at the Boston Public Library.
The library’s director pulled up some really cool items from the Special Collections for us including a Boston directory that started with Samuel Adams! In the Special Collections vault they have the Mayflower Compact as well as a copy of the Declaration of Independence. Pretty cool! The picture at the start of this entry is a birds-eye view of the first floor of the library.

And thanks to my mom I was just made aware of this recent article about the State Library here.
This library was started in 1853 and has been in its current location since 1898. What I was most impressed about this library was its fantastic website. They currently have 90,000 records online. The library was started “for the purpose of establishing and perpetuating a library of religious history and literature of New England, and for the erection of a suitable building for the same, and for the use of charitable societies.” So it has become a depository for not only religious history but also for literature about New England. It really has a bit of everything. They have over 200,000 records in the library. The stacks are closed stacks but we got to take a peek in them as well as in the Special Collections. Saw some incredible old and beautiful bibles. The collection has a mostly Judea-Christian bent but the director did say they receive donations from pretty much all religions. As Congregational churches do not really have any upper authority, each church is in charge of it’s own documents, etc. So this library has become a central place for documents to come to when either the church closes or is just ready to donate them. It’s really a matter of space and purpose that directs what they keep. They operated, in the beginning, from donations. They are funded by other tenants in the building, grants, and lots and lots of book sales. They have several activities, book talks, and tours of different parts of Boston. I would definitely suggest checking out their website as it is very extensive and has a lot of great information on it.

This library is the library for an organization called Community Change. They organization “serves as a hub for anti-racist learning and action.” They have been around since 1968 and have done and are doing some really interesting things in the area of racism, or rather anti-racism. The library is actually pretty far along for a non-profit with few resources and staff. The book collection was established by CCI founder Horace Seldon with the help of Esther Nowell, a volunteer school librarian, and Mrs. Harry Elam, formerly a Boston Public School librarian. In 1990, Yvonne Pappenheim began her volunteer work to maintain and develop the library. Currently there are 3,000 volumes and it is all cataloged online using Filemaker Pro. The library itself is classified by last name of author. There are now a few volunteers from Radical Reference that want to work to develop the collection and to set in place some actual goals for the library and what its purpose will be. With this will come some collection development, the possibility of finding some non-Library of Congress subject headings that would be appropriate for this type of library, and creating some sort of mission for the library. The volunteers have also been researching other libraries of this nature to see what works, etc. They have also begun to speak with professors that teach about these sorts of subjects to see what they, as users, would possibly want to see in a collection like this.
There is also lots of possible work/projects here for a library student like myself! I’m taking Collection Development this summer and I’m hoping that the class assignments may allow me to get more involved in what is going on in this library and to be a part of the collection development from the ground up; something that is not usually possible in already established libraries. It was great to end on that kind of note, to see how I could possibly relate all of this back to my schoolwork AND to work on something incredibly worthwhile.

And that was the Day of Special Library Tours! Pretty educational and amazing if you ask me:)

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