Friday, February 26, 2010

Debate Coverage in the House and Senate

Patrons often ask about debate in the House and
Senate chambers when they are researching laws. The discussion is an important source for determining the intent of legislation.

The State House News Service, a private news-gathering organization covering Massachusetts state government, began providing accounts of formal House and Senate sessions in 1972. These are not transcripts, but they may quote what was said by the legislators on a particular bill. Remote access to this database is not provided; it must be accessed on site. Reference librarians guide patrons in conducting a legislative history and will log users into this electronic resource to ascertain whether any debate was recorded.

Selected House proceedings are available in audio or video format going back to 1984. Beginning in 1996 the Senate videotaped certain proceedings.

Sessions in both chambers are now accessible through webcasts. The House and Senate began taping on January 1, 2007. The proceedings can be viewed at

Reference Staff

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Federal Tax Deduction for Haitian Relief

The State Library has received Federal Notice 1396, which allows one to deduct Haitian Relief cash contributions on the 2009 Tax Return. The notice is in English, Spanish, French, and Haitain Creole.

Federal and state tax forms are available on tables in front of Room 341 (the State Library) of the State House. There is a reproducible book of federal tax forms in the Library.

The federal forms can also be found at and the state forms at

Friday, February 19, 2010

Haitian Collections on Display at the State Library

Recently the library was host
to a group of local students from the Education Develop- ment Group, an institution that prepares recent immigrants for success in education and employment by providing language skills and cultural awareness. After a tour of the State House, the students, which included several Haitians, came by the library to see two particularly interesting artifacts in our collection regarding Haiti.

The first item presented was the book,
An historical survey of the French colony in the island of St. Domingo : comprehending a short account of its ancient government, political state, population, productions, and exports... published in 1797. This book contains a beautiful map of the island of St. Domingo prior to the revolution in 1804 that established Haiti as an independent country. While the library has several publications regarding Haiti after the revolution, this is the one in our collection that discusses the French colony prior to revolution. The map can be seen in the image above.

The second item presented was the medal awarded in 1871 by the Haitian government to U.S. Senator Charles Sumner of Massa- chusetts. Sumner worked tirelessly to gain official recognition of Haiti as a nation by the United States. Though Haiti declared nationhood after the revolution in 1804, the United States did not recognize Haiti until 1862. A letter by Sumner regarding the presentation of the medal can be found in Charles Sumner; His Complete Works, digitized by Google here. The medal is shown in the image above to the right of the map. Detailed images of the medal can be found on the State Library's Facebook page.

It is always a pleasure to display the library's treasured collections, and we were happy to host such an engaged group of students.

- Lacy Crews Stoneburner, Preservation Librarian

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Learn About the State Library's Scanning Projects

An ongoing initiative at the State Library is the digitization of historic Massachusetts state documents. Small collections tend to be digitized in-house using state-of-the-art scanners, while larger projects are sent to the Boston Public Library’s scanning center. So far, the State Library has digitized around 1000 items, and that number increases daily.

The in-house scanning projects include the Legislative Biographical File, which contains information about members of the Massachusetts General Court and its predecessors, Massachusetts constitutional officers, and members of Massachusetts constitutional conventions from the colonial period to date. Also being scanned at the State Library is a collection of photographs of World War I soldiers from New England and the Zimmer Newspaper Index, which is a card index to "current events" from 1878-1937 for use by Massachusetts legislators and the public. The Zimmer Index was created as a result of the “Act to Authorize the Preparation for the State Library of an Index of Current Events," passed by the Massachusetts legislature in 1892.

Larger scanning projects, such as the journals of the House and the Senate, are sent to the scanning center at the Boston Public Library’s Central Library in Copley Square. Some items from a grant-funded scanning project are also being sent to the BPL; this project involves a collection of nineteenth-century transportation materials, including photographs, maps, atlases, annual reports, and manuscripts.

Digitized items are preserved both in the Internet Archive and the State Library’s online institutional repository, known as DSpace. The Internet Archive also includes other Massachusetts-related documents, such as town and regional histories, which have been scanned by other institutions.

- State Library Staff

Friday, February 12, 2010

Go Wireless!

Did you know that the State Library provides free wireless Internet access? Bring your laptop to the library’s main reading room, State House Room 341, or the periodicals balcony, Room 442, and enjoy working remotely in a quiet and beautiful location with plenty of natural light.

To log in to the library’s wireless network, turn on the wireless access on your laptop and search for available wireless networks. Select LibraryHotSpot and open a web browser, such as Internet Explorer or Firefox. After successfully connecting to the network, close your browser and open it again in a new window. You are now ready to surf the Internet!

To use the network, all patrons must agree to the State Library’s Wireless Access Policy.

- State Library Staff

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lego White House Display Extended

The Lego White House will be at the State Library during school vacation week through February 19. The State Library is located in Room 341 and is open Monday through Friday 9-5. Come see the Lego White House before it leaves. Check out the State Library's Facebook page to see more pictures. No Facebook membership needed.

Naomi Allen, Reference and Assistant Government Documents Librarian

Friday, February 5, 2010

Discover Digital Collections with DSpace

As the legally designated depository library for Massachu-setts state publica-tions, the State Library has the most complete collection of Massa-chusetts government documents in existence. As more and more state documents are being published electronically rather than in print, the State Library has adapted its method of preserving these documents through the use of an online institutional repository, known as DSpace.

Typically, the documents in DSpace are no more than 10 years old and are downloaded from state agencies’ websites for permanent preservation in the library’s institutional repository. Some examples include the Office of Campaign and Political Finance Reports, MBTA bond issues, and Division of Insurance Annual Reports.

Some older state documents are also available in DSpace. For example, the Acts and Resolves are available online from 1692 to the present, many volumes of which are located in DSpace. Other older materials include the Manual for the General Court (1858-2005), the Massachusetts Election Statistics (1890-2004), and the Annual Reports of the Attorney General (1832-present).

Please visit our online institutional repository and explore the many state documents there that are freely available to the public.

- State Library Staff

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Census Documents at the State Library

The February Brown Bag Lunch Series is focusing on the Decennial Census, which will take place on April 1st. Arthur Bakis from the U.S. Census Bureau will talk about accessing population data. Join us in the Main Reading Room, Room 341, on Feb. 11 at noon. Program ends at 1:30PM.

The State Library holds Massachusetts State Census material and Federal materials since 1790, the year of the first U.S. census. Massachusetts census material is available on line from 1855 to 1975 at Click on our digital collections to view these.

The Federal Census has asked different questions every 10 years, and in 2010 everyone will receive the same 10 questions. The library has a listing of the major questions asked every year. Ask one of our Reference Librarians for more information.

The State Census was being done in the years ending with the number 5 starting in 1855 and ending in 1985. Question #1 on the ballot in 1990 repealed the taking of a state census.

Visit the State Library in person or through our digital collections to find your answers to Census questions.

The Reference Department