Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Moving Forward with Legislative History

As a reference librarian, I have come to expect certain things from patrons hoping to do legislative history. For those who have never had to complete the process before, there is often a look of panic that comes over them as you point to all the walls of books they will need to go through and describe the process of ‘reading between the lines’ to find intent. As someone who also had to learn how to backtrack a law using material like the General Laws, the Acts and Resolves and Senate and House Journals, I understand the dread a patron feels as they disappear behind a tower of oversized books. Legislative history in Massachusetts can be complicated and the library staff has put together a number of helpful resources to guide patrons through the process. Nevertheless, the older a law is the more difficult it can be to find the information you need.

The good news is that it is getting easier. For more recent bills, a number of online resources are gathering the information in one place so that legislative history can be done in less time and with less ambiguity. The legislature’s website is a great place to start. They have the General Laws available as well as Acts starting in 1997 and Resolves starting in 1998. If you have the act number, you will even be able to find the number of the bill that was passed. While perhaps to today’s standards this step may seem basic and obvious, finding this bill number for older laws can take time and some careful maneuvering through various sources. With the Legislature’s website it can be found in an instant.

With this bill number and the year, you have the tools to then use the resource Instatrac. Instatrac, or MassTrac, is a bill-tracking service the State Library subscribes to so it can only be used by patrons on location at the State House. Even without the bill number, you can search by keywords, categories and other citations to find the information you may need. The database contains legislative information including bill text, history, committee information, reports, news articles, votes, press releases and even floor debate for more recent bills. Since it is constantly being updated, it is also a wonderful way to track bills that are still being debated in the current session. For laws enacted after 1995, Instatrac allows a patron doing legislative history to follow a bill from its original text to the day it’s signed into law.

We at the library know how difficult the legislative history process can be, especially for those who are working on older laws or who cannot visit the library. We have already put all Acts and Resolves online and are working to put up all of Legislative Documents (bills). Nevertheless, sometimes the information desired will not be available. With online resources like the legislature’s website, Instatrac, and news services archiving their articles like the Boston Globe and the State House News Service, this process will continue to get easier and how and why a bill became law may get clearer.

Stephanie Turnbull
Reference Librarian

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Author Talks: Myths and Legends of Massachusetts

Myths and Legends of Massachusetts:
A Presentation by Local Author Sam Baltrusis
Wednesday, October 28, 2015—Noon to 1:30pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

The State Library of Massachusetts is pleased to announce the first in a monthly series of Author Talks. Sam Baltrusis, author of the recently published book 13 Most Haunted in Massachusetts, will speak on myths and legends in Massachusetts. Just in time for Halloween, this event will be held on Wednesday, October 28, from noon until 1:30pm in the beautifully restored State Library reading room, located in Room 341 of the Massachusetts State House.

Author and journalist Sam Baltrusis is a freelance writer for such publications as Boston Spirit Magazine and STUFF Magazine. In the past, he has worked for MTV.com, VH1, Newsweek, WHDH.com, and ABC Radio and has served as a regional stringer for The New York Times and as editor-in-chief of Spare Change News.

In addition to his most recent book, Mr. Baltrusis is also the author of three books in the “Haunted America” series: Ghosts of Boston: Haunts of the Hub, Ghosts of Cambridge: Haunts of Harvard Square and Beyond, and Ghosts of Salem: Haunts of the Witch City. Copies of the books 13 Most Haunted in Massachusetts and Ghosts of Boston will be available for purchase and signing at the event.

“Myths and Legends of Massachusetts” is free and open to the public. Please register online to attend this exciting Author Talk at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, October 19, 2015

Join the Friends of the State Library of Massachusetts

Let’s Be Friends! It’s National Friends of Libraries Week! Please join us in the celebration by becoming a Friend of the State Library of Massachusetts.

Friends of the State Library help us enhance our print and electronic collections, fund new preservation projects, and purchase new equipment. The benefits of joining include getting advance notice of our exhibits, tours, and other events.

Remember, anyone can join the Friends organization to help support the State Library of Massachusetts.  Check out our website at: http://1.usa.gov/1jsz6PD and please feel free to email us at Friends.StateLibrary@state.ma.us. Thanks for your support!

The Friends of the State Library

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Chocolate in the Commonwealth

One of my favorite things in life just so happens to be chocolate, so you can imagine my delight when I came across the library’s 1899 edition of the title Cocoa and chocolate: a short history of their production and use while I was perusing the library’s shelves.  It was published by Walter Baker & Company, which operated factory buildings in locations such as the Lower Mills Village on the Neponset River between Dorchester and Milton, Massachusetts.  It’s an interesting book that educates the reader on how chocolate is made—or at least in the late 19th century—and also tells the story of the company, describing itself as “the oldest and largest establishment of its kind on this continent” with its origins going back as far as 1765.  Baker’s Chocolate did not become a household name until after the death of John Hannon in 1779, when the company was known as Hannon’s Best Chocolate.  Ownership switched over to James Baker in 1780 and then to Walter Baker in 1823, who rebranded the company under his name.  The company stayed within the Baker family until it officially organized under state law in 1895; in 1898 the company was incorporated through an act of the legislature.

For more information on the company and chocolate production in Massachusetts, check out the in depth online exhibit entitled “Sweet History:  Dorchester and the Chocolate Factory” created by the Bostonian Society: http://www.bostonhistory.org/sub/bakerschocolate/

Other related titles by Walter Baker & Co.:

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, October 5, 2015

World War II Coloring Book from the Federal Government

Most of the State Library’s federal documents are produced by the various agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Census, Internal Revenue Service, and the Social Security Administration. These documents include annual reports containing a lot of statistical information on the issuing agency. However, some of them are quite unique.  One such document was published by the Office of the President during World War II and is titled John's Book.

John’s Book was received in the State Library September 20, 1945 and it is a children’s coloring book about servicemen during World War II. The book tells the story of John’s father, a pilot in the Ferry Command which ferried planes across the ocean.  The book contains black and white photographs and pictures to color including a ship, a star of freedom and the American flag.  One of the most interesting aspects of this book is its own two-sided pencil attached to a sleeve in the book’s spine. This patriotic book was translated into different languages and the State Library has the English, French, Portuguese and Spanish versions.

If you are interested in browsing these resources visit the State Library of Massachusetts in room 341 of the State House, Monday through Friday 9-5.

Naomi Allen
Reference Department