As libraries across the United States celebrate National Library Week (April 7-13) and honor the great work of librarians everywhere, the illustrious traditions of Massachusetts as a center of learning, education and free exchange of ideas comes to the fore.
With over 370 public libraries and 1,400 academic and specialized libraries, according to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, we also have the nation’s first membership library (Boston Athenaeum, 1807) and the nation’s first public library (Boston Public Library, 1848). We have a presidential library (John F. Kennedy, 1979), hundreds of outstanding university libraries, two federal archives, and the world’s largest repository of books for the blind and deaf (Perkins School for the Blind).
First celebrated in 1958, National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA). This year’s theme, “Libraries = Strong Communities,” underscores the value of libraries both as educational resources and as centers for residents and visitors to gather together for cultural and civic pursuits.
The State Library of Massachusetts, located at the State House, has a vast collection of important government documents dating back to the founding of the nation. It also has official documents pertaining to Massachusetts’ participation in various wars, and all of the regulations and laws passed by the Massachusetts Legislature in its history.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum at Columbia Point in Dorchester is a federal repository of the papers and holdings of President Kennedy and his administration. The JFK is a treasure trove of information about the state’s native son, and also materials on mid-20th century politics in America.
The National Archives hold the permanent archival records of the federal government. Massachusetts is fortunate to have two of the thirteen regional facilities located around the country, in Waltham and Pittsfield.
The Massachusetts Health Sciences Library Network is a consortium of libraries that include medical research centers and hospitals, publishing companies and college libraries with significant collections in health sciences.