Monday, October 27, 2014

Cold Feet

Sometimes we find surprises while we’re doing our jobs. A few weeks ago, while helping a researcher search for articles in 1854 newspapers, we found a notice that made us all laugh.

The State Library holds a set of the nineteenth-century paper called the Boston Atlas. For the edition published Wednesday morning, May 24, 1854, we found the following notice on page 2:

“A woman has sued for divorce in Indiana, on the ground that her husband’s feet were so cold it distressed her. A case of clear incompatibility of temperament and of sole.”

Did the woman from Indiana ever get her divorce? We don’t know. She may have gotten cold feet.

Beth Carroll-Horrocks
Head of Special Collections

Monday, October 20, 2014

In Celebration of Open Access Week: Enhancing Discovery and Access to Historical Collections at the State Library

For the past two years, the Special Collections Department has been working on a project to standardize descriptions of its manuscript collections, so that more people can find them and use them for research.

The project started in early 2012 when intern Abigail Cramer joined us as an intern from the Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. There were two major components of her work:
  • to locate the existing guides, or “finding aids,” to the collections, and reformat them so they conform to current standards, and then deposit those findings aids in our digital depository, DSpace
  • to update and improve the descriptions of those collections in our online catalog

The project was much more complicated than it may appear to non-archivists! Finding aids, when they existed at all, were in so many different formats (handwritten, typed, created in WordPerfect, or in MS Word) and in so many different styles that researchers couldn’t be quite sure what they were looking at. Even more important: researchers couldn’t find descriptions of the collections online, so they had to contact staff and have descriptions photocopied and mailed. Not efficient, and not conducive to research.

Old guide to Salvatore Albano Papers (Ms.Coll. 43)

Updated guide to Salvatore Albano Papers (Ms.Coll. 43)

Thanks to Abby’s hard work, that situation has changed. She not only completed work on over 140 collections, now all described in our online catalog with finding aids available with a single click, and findable through major search engines, but she also wrote out clear, comprehensive instructions for all aspects of the project, so it can be continued by Library staff and interns.

Example of an old catalog record 

Example of an updated catalog record

Results of improved accessas shown by increased use of the collectionswere immediate, and extremely gratifying to Library staff.  Improving access to our collections is why we come to work every day!

Special thanks to Abigail Cramer for the superb work she did on a very complicated project.

Beth Carroll-Horrocks
Head of Special Collections

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Opinions Issued By the Attorney General

An entry from Shepard's Citations for
Chapter 796 of the 1949 Acts, providing a
reference to page 29 of the 1949 Report
of the Attorney General   
Legislators, state officials, agencies, and district attorneys often require advice on the legality or constitutionality of a law or issue that has an “immediate concrete relation to the official duties of the state agency or officer requesting the opinion.”  The Attorney General is authorized to provide formal opinions and legal advice on such matters if the request falls within the scope of the AG’s requirements, and these opinions are published in the AG’s annual reports (also known as Public Document 12).  For current information on the types of requests to which the AG will and will not respond, you can visit the office’s opinions overview page.  However, it is important to know that, as of right now, the last formal opinion issued by the AG was on October 11th, 2001.

State and federal legislation, as well as case law, are almost always referenced in the opinions depending on the subject.  Often pieces of legislation are the main subject about which the AG opines, and there are a few ways to see if the legislation you are researching was once submitted for review. One way is by using Shepard’s Citations and/or Westlaw’s KeyCite, which provide citations to relevant opinions (ex. 1949MaAG29).  The editors of the annotated editions of the Massachusetts General Laws also provide citations, but are selective as to which they include.

A helpful hint when researching: prior to 1968, opinions were not numbered individually.  Any citations to opinions that were issued before 1968 will refer to the page number of the report; later citations refer to the assigned opinion number.

Researchers should also keep in mind that the Massachusetts fiscal year begins on July 1st and ends on the following June 30th.

Want to access a report but can’t visit the State Library?  The library maintains a digital collection of reports of the Attorney General in our DSpace electronic documents repository, starting from 1832 up to the most current issue.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Astronomical Almanac

The Astronomical Almanac is a publication of both the United States and Britain. Its publishing history is as follow: in 1766, the British published Nautical Almanac and Astronomical Ephemeris. It was renamed: The Astronomical Ephemeris in 1960.  In 1852, America published The American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac. In 1981 both were combined and the title became:  The Astronomical Almanac.

In the United States the Almanac is published by the United States Naval Observatory (USNO) and in Britain by Her Majesty’s Nautical Almanac Office, United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (HMNAO). It is printed only in the United States and uses reproducible materials from both offices. Data is received from scientists all over the world, and it is considered to be a worldwide resource for astronomical information.

There are 12 sections, including:  a glossary, notes and references, observatories, natural satellites, the sun, the moon and the planets.

There is an online version which does not duplicate the data in the printed volume. Among other data, maps have been added to this version. The yearly Almanac is available for purchase from the Government Printing Office (GPO).

The State Library has the 2015 edition of the Almanac in print (call # D213.8: 2015).  It is available by requesting it from the Reference Desk in room 341 of the State Library. The online version can be accessed at any one of the 8 public access computers available in rooms 341 or 442.

The State Library is open to the public Mondays through Fridays from 9am to 5pm.

Bette L. Siegel
Documents Librarian