Monday, July 21, 2014

A Treasured Reference Book in the State Library

As with all State Houses across the country, the Massachusetts State House constantly “buzzes” with political activity. The State Library is right in the center of all of that exciting work and the reference desk is constantly visited by those wanting to learn about their government.

Visitors to the library, in person or via e-mail, want information about members of the Massachusetts General Court (the legislature).  The Massachusetts Political Almanac is a source reference staff consult constantly to answer these inquiries.  This volume gives biographical backgrounds.  It includes information about the members’ districts.  Election results, organization membership and committee assignments are noted.  A section on key votes by a legislator includes explanations of the issues which have been catalysts for the votes.

The library has received renditions of this source for nearly forty years and a section or volume on the Executive Branch was added with the 1985/1986 session.  In early years, the Political Almanac was known as the Massachusetts Research Center’s Massachusetts State Officials, “an almanac.”

The 2014 edition has more information than ever.  It contains a special pull-out map of the House and Senate districts, a feature added in 2013.  Sections of note in the current volume include:

  • photographs and biographies of all of the members 
  • Information and staff listings for Executive agencies with photographs
  • Constitutional Officer profiles: (Governor, Lt. Governor, State Auditor, Attorney-General, Secretary of the Commonwealth and State Treasurer)
  • The Supreme Judicial Court profiles
  • Directory of the Appeals Court
  • The Congressional Delegation
  • Legislators listed by city/town

The current publisher, Craig Sandler, from the State House News Service, (a private newsgroup located in the State House), has included a section on State House News Service Top Ten Stories from 2013 and a section addressing Racial Change in the Bay State.  Another is entitled: Massachusetts Statewide Demographic Data.  There is even a section on Legislative House Values.

One other key section which helps with overall questions about the state is entitled Milestones in the History of Massachusetts.  It is a fascinating compendium.

In numerous ways, the political almanacs are what one might term “a reference librarian’s dream source.”  The current volume is out in the reference area.  Copies of many year’s volumes are kept in a separate area near the library’s main floor.  The arrival of a  new edition is a welcome “event” for staff.

Please visit us here in the State House to view the almanacs and our many holdings about state government.

Pamela W. Schofield
Legislative Reference Librarian