|Entrance to the State Library|
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.