Photo Courtesy of Boston Athenaeum
Every April, librarians and patrons, authors and book lovers, and educators and students across the nation join the American Library Association (ALA) in celebrating National Library Week, which takes place this year the week of April 23-29.
The theme in 2023 is “There’s More to the Story,” a reminder that libraries a variety of materials, from picture books to large print, audiobooks to ebooks, and more. They have also become a crucial community resource.
In addition to books, notes ALA, “Libraries of Things lend items like museum passes, games, musical instruments, and tools. Library programming brings communities together for entertainment, education, and connection through book clubs, story times, movie nights, crafting classes and lectures. Library infrastructure advances communities, providing internet and technology access, literacy skills and support for businesses, job seekers and entrepreneurs.”
Massachusetts has more than 370 public libraries and 1,400 academic and specialized libraries. Massachusetts also has nine library networks that provide the library catalog, the ability to borrow from neighboring libraries, circulation, patron registration, public Internet access and other critical services.
Massachusetts has 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 at the Perkins School for the Blind Library.
The State Library of Massachusetts, located at the State House on Beacon Hill, has a vast collection of important government documents dating back to the founding of the nation. It contains official documents pertaining to Massachusetts’ participation in various wars, and all of the regulations and laws passed by the Massachusetts Legislature in its history. Search the State Library’s digital repository for more information.
The Boston Public Library (BPL), founded in 1848 and acclaimed as the People’s Palace, continues to share its incredible collections of books, videos, music, genealogy resources and educational materials to the world. The BPL has 25 branch libraries throughout Boston’s neighborhoods.
The Boston Athenaeum on Beacon Street, founded in 1807, contains more than a million volumes, with particular strengths in Boston history, New England state and local history, biography, English and American literature, and the fine and decorative arts.
Other Athenaeums in Massachusetts include the Salem Athenaeum, incorporated in 1810; the Berkshire Athenaeum, opened in 1872, the Nantucket Athenaeum, opened in 1834; and the Westfield Athenaeum, incorporated in 1864.
Many Massachusetts libraries are architectural gems. The Springfield City Library was funded by Andrew Carnegie and built in the Italian Renaissance Revival style in 1912. The Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy, Woburn Public Library and the Malden Public Library, were all designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, one of the nation’s preeminent architects of the 19th century. Here is a Directory of Public Libraries in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts Library System is a handy resource providing services to about 1,600 Massachusetts libraries.
Massachusetts has numerous specialty libraries, including 15 Trial Court Law Libraries.
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 Commonwealth’s native son, and also contains materials on mid-20th century politics in America.
The National Archives hold the permanent archival records of the federal government, and this month is releasing the 1950 U.S. Census. Massachusetts is fortunate to have two of the thirteen regional facilities located around the country, in Waltham and Pittsfield.
Finally, check out Digital Commonwealth, a non-profit collaborative organization disseminates cultural heritage materials held by over 180 Massachusetts libraries, museums, historical societies, and archives.
For information about visiting Massachusetts, go to Visitma.com.