Monday, April 24, 2017

Will the REAL State Library of Massachusetts please stand up?!

Entrance to the State Library
 of Massachusetts
It may be known by many other names: the “legal name” George Fingold Library, Massachusetts State Library, or State House Library … but no matter what it is called, it remains the same place (and is just as sweet—apologies to Shakespeare). The mix-up does not only extend to the name of the “State Library” but also to the confusion as to the differences (and similarities) between the State Library of Massachusetts and our two other Commonwealth “partners in library business”—the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and the Massachusetts Archives.

This confusion is understandable, because in many other states what is called the “state library” has the combined responsibilities of both the State Library of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners in one, and even in some cases, the responsibilities of the Massachusetts Archives added on for good measure. Still, in other states, the “state library” is a law library that serves the state courts like the Massachusetts Trial Court Libraries. However, in Massachusetts, the somewhat labyrinthine structure of state government that has evolved over the years has meant that these three agencies continue to remain under completely different branches of government oversight.

The State Library of Massachusetts is the oldest, having been formally established in 1826, is under the oversight of the Executive Branch Office for Administration and Finance, a Cabinet Secretariat directly under the Governor. The Executive Office for Administration and Finance is known mainly as being the “budget office” but also manages the Commonwealth’s administrative agencies, “including revenue collection, information technology, human resources, procurement, and state facilities” and results in a diverse mix of agencies under the Secretariat--including the State Library of Massachusetts.

The State Library itself,  as an agency under the Secretary for Administration and Finance, has its own Board of Trustees for oversight that is comprised of 6 members—President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Secretary of State (or their designees), and three members of the public appointed by the Governor.

4th floor, State Library of Massachusetts

The State Library of Massachusetts’ first collections began from an informal documents exchange program between Massachusetts and other U.S. states and has evolved over the 19th and 20th centuries into a research library with rich legal and historical collections to support the work of the legislature, governor, other public officials, and the work of Massachusetts state agency employees in all branches of government but it is also open to the general public and its collections are available to anyone to use and view—especially now as more library collections are being digitized and added to the State Library’s digital repository. The State Library’s main focus, past and present, is to maintain a complete repository of *published* Massachusetts state documents and preserve these collections (in both paper and electronic) for future access and retrieval. The State Library of Massachusetts moved into its current location in Rooms 341 and 442 of the State House “Brigham Addition” in 1895 and established a separate location for the Special Collections Department in Room 55 in the basement of the West Wing of the State House in the 1970’s.

And What About Our “Library Partner” agencies?”

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners is an independent state agency governed by 9 commissioners appointed by the Governor and was established in 1890 as the Massachusetts Free Public Library Commission (the oldest state library agency in the United States in fact) and became the “Board” in 1952. From its current offices on North Washington Street in Boston’s North End, it promotes library services at the free public libraries throughout the Commonwealth by administering funding (from the General Appropriations Act, a.k.a. “final budget”) and grants to individual libraries, supporting resource sharing and technology in libraries, as well as providing library services to the blind and physically handicapped residents of the Commonwealth.

The past histories of the State Library of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners intertwine in the years from 1870-1909 when Caleb Benjamin Tillinghast served as both the chairman of the Board (from its inception in 1890) and as State Librarian (the first to hold the official title after serving as “acting librarian” from 1879-1893) until his death in 1909.

Massachusetts Archives facade

The Massachusetts Archives is overseen by the Massachusetts Office of the Secretary of State, headed by the elected Constitutional Officer, Secretary of State, currently William F. Galvin.  As somewhat of a counterpart to the State Library of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Archives mission is to preserve and provide access to the “original and permanent records of state government”—that is, records that Massachusetts state government agencies produce as part of government business that document government actions taken.  The State Library of Massachusetts concentrates on preserving and providing access to the output of the agencies—published documents, reports, and the like.  The Massachusetts Archives in conjunction with the Public Records Division of the Office of the Secretary of State also have the responsibility of helping state and municipal Massachusetts government agencies in managing their records and compliance with the Massachusetts Public Records Law.

The Massachusetts Archives moved from its previous location in the State House to its current home on the UMass Boston Columbia Point campus in 1985 where it counts among its treasures the state’s foundation documents--the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, 1780 Massachusetts Constitution, and the 1629 Charter of Massachusetts Bay which can be seen on display at the Archive-operated Commonwealth Museum that is definitely worth a visit.


Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services


Friday, April 14, 2017

Special Event: Treasures of the State Library of Massachusetts

Thursday, May 4th, 2017—3:00-3:45pm
State Library of Massachusetts, Special Collections—Room 55
Massachusetts State House

Detail of Aprosmictus splendens.
(Peale.), from the atlas volume “Mamalia
and ornithology,” United States
Exploring Expedition: During the
Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842,
Under the Command of Charles
Wilkes, U. S. N. Philadelphia, 1844-1874.
The State Library is once again participating in ArtWeek Boston!  On May 4th from 3:00-3:45pm the Library’s Special Collections Department will be hosting the event “Treasures of the State Library of Massachusetts.” Visitors will be able to view and learn about materials that are normally not on public view.  Items include some of the earliest published laws of Massachusetts, a realistic facsimile of Mayflower passenger William Bradford’s manuscript journal Of Plimoth Plantation, broadsides recruiting soldiers for the Civil War, photographs of African-American soldiers from the Massachusetts 54th and 55th Regiments, a handwritten journal by a Civil War soldier from Massachusetts, early maps of Boston, and beautifully illustrated books on natural history.  Space is limited so register today!

To register or learn more about the event, please visit: Treasures of the State Library of Massachusetts

Have a question?  Contact the library’s Special Collections staff directly via e-mail or by phone:
E-mail: special.collections@state.ma.us
Phone: 617-727-2595

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department


Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday, April 3, 2017

April Author Talk: Tammy Rebello & L.F. Blanchard



Abandoned Asylums of Massachusetts

by Tammy Rebello & L.F. Blanchard 
Thursday, April 20, 2017—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House


Our next author talk features two authors and one intriguing topic: Tammy Rebello and Lynn Blanchard will join us at noon on Thursday, April 20, to speak about their recent book Abandoned Asylums of Massachusetts.

As part of the Images of Modern America series from Arcadia Publishing, Abandoned Asylums of Massachusetts presents vivid photographs of several abandoned mental health facilities in Massachusetts, including such institutions as Belchertown State School, Monson State Hospital, and the Walter Fernald State School. Each photograph is accompanied by a descriptive vignette, adapted from the stories of former patients, their families, and those who once worked in the facilities. According to the authors, their mission with this project is not to sensationalize the abuses of the past, but to educate and enlighten, telling the stories of those too often forgotten.

At the conclusion of the talk, the authors will provide copies of Abandoned Asylums of Massachusetts for sale and signing. Also available for purchase will be several photographic prints. We invite you to register online and join us on April 20 at the State Library.

Belchertown State School Auditorium 

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, March 27, 2017

To Save Daylight or Not to Save Daylight, That is the Question


The calendar may say “spring” but the weather lately certainly still says “winter” but at least since the shift to Eastern Daylight Time in Massachusetts a mere two weeks ago, the days seem so much more bearable with sunlight in the evenings, even if the temperatures are nowhere near agreeable for March! Even before this year’s “springing ahead,” Massachusetts made national headlines with its renewed and organized push to make daylight saving time permanent all year round—in essence, leaving the Eastern Standard Time Zone and joining Puerto Rico, Nova Scotia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (among others) in the Atlantic Standard Time Zone.

The “Special Commission on the Commonwealth’s Time Zone” to “study the economic, health, energy, education, and transportation impacts” of this time zone move was established by Chap. 219, Acts of 2016 and recently held a hearing to debate the advantages, as well as the disadvantages, of the change and expect to issue a summary report on the pros and cons in the late spring. At the same time, Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire are also considering the same time zone move, with the idea that the relocation of New England as a “regional block” to the new time zone would be easier and more likely to be approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation as the ultimate decision maker for all time zone changes. But without gaining the “buy in” of the state of New York (and, to a lesser extent, Connecticut), the chance of success might be limited. Florida also tried on its own to make daylight saving time permanent there in 2016 with its aptly named "Sunshine Protection Act" that failed to get out of committee, so perhaps Massachusetts will have more traction in the crusade to “save daylight” this time around.

Then again, either the extension of, or the permanent adoption of daylight saving time is an idea that has been floated by bills in the Massachusetts General Court since the 1950’s. After its first adoption during World War I and then again during World War II (in fact, dubbed “War Time,” daylight saving time was in effect for the entire period from Feb. 9, 1942 through Sept. 30. 1945). Over the years, the federal government shifted around the start and end of daylight saving time exclusively during the months of April and October. In 2007, then Rep. (now Sen.) Edward Markey of Massachusetts sponsored an energy bill amendment to begin daylight saving time on the second Sunday of March and end the first Sunday in November. With this 4 to 5 week extension (depending on the how the days fall on the calendar), about 65% of the year is already spent in daylight saving time, so what is the harm to add a mere 35% more (and end to those depressing, dark winter afternoons!)? We will await the final word from the Commission on whether or not we can look forward to never having to “spring forward” or “fall back” again.


Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

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Monday, March 20, 2017

The Quabbin Reservoir and its Lost Towns

From Ghost Towns 'Neath Quabbin Reservoir

The vast majority of land that makes up the city of Boston is man-made, and while those that live in and around New England’s largest city may take note of the way that Bostonians have altered their immediate environment to suit their needs, they may not be aware of environments farther west that were also drastically changed for their benefit.

The Quabbin Reservoir, which is located almost exactly in the middle of the state of Massachusetts in what was known as the Swift River Valley, was built in order to supply the city of Boston with water. The city had been growing at an exponential rate during the 1800s and the smaller water systems, aqueducts, and reservoirs in place had failed to keep up with the demand for water. In 1895, the Massachusetts Board of Health recommended the Swift River Valley as one of two potential sites for the construction of a reservoir, but nothing came of the recommendation initially. Residents of the towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott, all located within the valley, appeared to dismiss the possibility that such a project would affect them. One news correspondent from North Dana wrote in 1909: “It is safe to say that the day is far distant when it [the reservoir] will be done. North Dana people don’t need to move before snow flies, at any rate.” (The Creation of Quabbin Reservoir: The Death of the Swift River Valley, 18).

The State Board of Health's 1895 report that first recommended
the Swift River Valley as the site of a new reservoir, filed with
the General Court as House Bill 500

By 1922, the Swift River Valley was officially selected as the next extension of the complex water system channeling into Boston. The first stage of the project involved building a tunnel now known as the Quabbin Aqueduct, which connected the Ware River and Swift River with the Wachusett Reservoir. The diversion of these waters angered the state of Connecticut, who claimed rights to those waters since they ultimately joined the Connecticut River. The contention between the two states could not be settled and ultimately went to the Supreme Court, where the federal justices dismissed Connecticut’s bill of complaint in 1931.

The construction of the Windsor Dam and the Goodnough Dike began after the Supreme Court decision, but the people in the four Swift Valley towns were able to take their time leaving their homes. Some historic buildings, such as the Field House originally in Enfield and the Coldbrook Springs Baptist Church, were moved to other towns to escape destruction. By March 28, 1938, the Metropolitan District Water Supply Commission, formally took over all land in the Swift River Valley by eminent domain. Still, many townspeople continued to live and work in the valley until 1939.

The 1938 Farewell Ball from The Day Four Quabbin Towns Died

On April 27, 1938, the Enfield Fire Department hosted a ball, “the very, very last social affair” in the town. They expected only about 300 people like their previous annual balls, but more than 1,000 people squeezed into the ballroom, with another 2,000 outside. The raucous affair was punctuated with emotion, however, when the orchestra paused at midnight to play “Auld Lang Syne” in tribute to the passing Swift Valley towns:

'A reporter for the Springfield Union described the scene best: ‘A hush fell over the Town Hall, jammed far beyond ordinary capacity, as the first note of the clock sounded; a nervous tension… had been felt by both present and former residents, and casual onlookers… muffled sounds of sobbing were heard, hardened men were not ashamed to take out their handkerchiefs, and even children, attending the ball with their parents, broke into tears.'" (The Day Four Quabbin Towns Died, 47).

Flooding commenced in the Swift River Valley on August 14, 1939. Despite stories of whole buildings standing below the current water and former residents being carried out in boats as water rose on their front steps, there is no evidence that either of these things are true. Today, the Quabbin Reservoir is 18 miles long and holds 412 billion gallons of water (Mass.gov). The name of the reservoir comes from the name of a Nipmuc sachem, or chief, by the name of Nani-Quaben, whose name meant “place of many waters” or “well-watered place.” It appears that the name continues to be appropriate today.

Further Reading:



Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff