Monday, August 27, 2018

Tips When Researching Legislation: Rejected Bills

Histories of bills from the 2005-2006
legislative session that were either sent
to a study order—a common way to
 “kill a bill”—or on which no further
action was taken.
Researching a law in Massachusetts usually involves tracing it back to its beginning, reviewing primary documents(1) and secondary resources(2) along the way.  Bill histories are essential tools that greatly help with tracing laws and understanding their background; however, it’s important to keep in mind that they will only help you trace as far back as a law’s own initial filing.  If you’re researching a law that passed, there may have been several previous attempts at passing the same or a similar law that weren’t so successful.  Here are some things to consider when conducting your research:

  • Have there been any similar bills that were submitted and ultimately rejected in the past?  Even though they might not be part of the direct history of the law you’re researching, they can provide a further backstory on how the law came to be, who was involved, and how it was treated in previous legislative sessions.  It’s even possible that the text of a passed law wholly or partly derives from an earlier version that was rejected.
  • If you do find earlier unsuccessful bills, were public hearings held and were the bills debated?  Even though they were rejected, they still might have gone far enough through the legislative process that the House and Senate were given the opportunity to discuss them during floor sessions.  Looking at the histories of these earlier unsuccessful bills will help determine how far they made it through the process.
  • Are there any patterns?  Did local and/or world events act as a catalyst for previous bill attempts?  What are the differences between the law that passed and the previous rejected bills?  Did the political climate change over time?

An easy way to find bills, passed and not passed, and other legislative documents is by searching the library’s DSpace online repository.  Other materials not available online can be found in the library’s reading room in room 341 of the State House.  In addition, the library’s website also provides helpful information on how to compile legislative histories in Massachusetts.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

(1) Primary materials include, but are not limited to:  legislative documents (bills, reports, communications), House and Senate Journals, and videos of hearings and floor debates (if available).
(2) Secondary materials include, but are not limited to:  news and journal articles, outside commentary, and other unofficial publications that discuss the law or the general subject.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Cold War and the Building of Fallout Shelters

As a reference librarian sometimes I get very interesting questions.  Recently I got a question where a patron wanted to know about a bomb shelter in the State House.  When I researched this question I found out that in 1961 President John F. Kennedy, worried about the threat of nuclear attack, created a program to determine where public community fallout shelters were located.  According to the podcast The Global Politico, on October 6, 1961 “President John F. Kennedy advised U.S. families to build bomb shelters as protection from atomic fallout in the event of a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union.”  Media outlets followed with stories about shelters and how to build them.  Shelters should be made with concrete blocks for a basement shelter, sand or gravel fill for an above ground shelter and both have waterproof plywood.  “Congress voted to appropriate $169 million to locate, mark and stock fallout shelters in existing public and private buildings.”

In order to become a fallout shelter a building had to meet certain criteria and then the Office of Civil defense would let it be marked as a fallout shelter.  WGBH reports the criteria for a building to be designated a fallout shelter as suitable if they met three criteria.  First was that they provided physical protection usually meaning they were fairly airtight with thick concrete walls:  “They had to have a protection factor of at least 40 which meant you would receive 1/40th the radiation inside the building than you would outside, unprotected.” The building also had to be built away from likely fallout therefore shelters were built in basements of schools, and in the middle floors of taller buildings.  The third requirement was that there had to be room for at least 50 people with 10 square feet of space per person.

Shelter sign at the Boston
Public Library
According to the blog Fallout Five Zero, on November 5, 1962 Governor John Volpe posted a shelter sign in front of the State House. Some unconventional places such as theaters, department stores and office buildings became shelters. The shelters were marked with a yellow and black sign which was designed by Robert Blakeley, a US Army Corps of Engineers employee.  The Macy’s in downtown Boston and the central branch of the Boston Public Library still have shelter signs on their buildings.

Bomb shelters and fallout shelters are two different entities and the terms are frequently confused with each other.  A bomb shelter is designed to protect people from the physical force of a bomb, while a fallout shelter is supposed to protect one from the radioactive particles in the air after the bomb drops.  The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency bunker in Framingham is designed to protect people against a severe bomb blast making it an example of a bomb blast.

 As a result of the nuclear threat in the 1960s’, people were building shelters in their own backyards. The Boston Globe Magazine published an article on December 12, 1999 about a family in Tewksbury that has a bomb shelter in their backyard.  Several families got together to build a 22 by 38 foot shelter space after President Kennedy, responding to the Berlin crisis gave a speech in the summer of 1961 telling citizens to build fallout shelters.  The project started out amicably with each family chipping in $600. Then disagreements started with what foods to stock.  Then there was a discussion about what to do if neighbors wanted to break into the fallout shelter during a nuclear attack.  One neighbor, who participated in the building of the shelter said to shoot them which made another participant want to scrap the whole project.  The shelter is still there because it is hard to remove something that is built out of concrete and steel. There could be hundreds or more of these backyard shelters in backyards all over Massachusetts and the country unbeknownst to current residents.

Resources for Further Reading and Research

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, August 13, 2018

September Author Talk: Karilyn Crockett

People before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making, by Karilyn Crockett 
Tuesday, September 18, 2018—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

The State Library of Massachusetts has a great lineup of authors for our new season of Author Talks, starting with our September speaker, Dr. Karilyn Crockett, author of People before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making. We invite you to join us for Dr. Crockett’s talk and book signing at noon on Tuesday, September 18th, in Room 341 of the Massachusetts State House.

People before Highways explores a 1960s grassroots movement to halt the planned extension of the interstate highway system through the city of Boston. When it became clear that the planned highway would disproportionately impact poor communities of color, activists began to organize in order to push back. Now, thanks to this victorious multiracial coalition of anti-highway protestors, Bostonians are able to enjoy a highway-less urban corridor and a linear central city park—testaments to the power of citizen-led city making. 

Author Karilyn Crockett is the former Director of Economic Policy and Research, and Director of Small Business Development, for the City of Boston and Lecturer of Public Policy and Urban Planning at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies & Planning. Prior to her graduate studies at Yale University and the London School of Economics, Dr. Crockett co-founded Multicultural Youth Tour Of What's Now (MYTOWN), an award winning, educational non-profit organization in Boston. During its nearly 15 years of operation, MYTOWN created jobs for more than 300 low and moderate-income teenagers and was touted by the National Endowment for the Humanities as being “one of ten best Youth Humanities Programs in America.”

The State Library’s Author Talks are free and open to everyone. We invite you to register in advance, and we look forward to seeing you on September 18th at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, August 6, 2018

Before it gets cold!: Recreational Resources for Massachusetts

With the beginning of August comes the slow end of summer, but still there is plenty of time to pack every last bit of summer fun in! While winter brings with it its own seasonal recreational activities, the opportunities to tour and trek throughout New England are abundant during the warmer months, with the most popular remaining the same for decades, perhaps even centuries.

Throughout history, locals and tourists alike have pursued the historic, cultural, and environmental recreation that the Commonwealth offers in abundance. Our library’s collection offers a few documents about recreation throughout Massachusetts from the 1930s that show that we have more in common with our ancestors that we may have thought.

One book entitled Recreation in and about Boston; a handbook of opportunities, published 1930, includes subject-specific essays on all that the commonwealth’s capital city offers. The chapter titles offer a glimpse of the book’s suggestions: “Cruising Afoot,” “Architecture Worth Seeing,” “Outdoor Sports,” and “An Approach to Art,” all of which directly correlate to today’s walking tours, architecture tours, sports stadiums, and art museums that are still popular. Even the Freedom Trail, which wouldn’t be organized for another 20 years after the book was published, is alluded to in two essays on “Historical Walks.” One reason we at the State Library particularly like this book is that we are featured in the essay “The Libraries of Greater Boston”:

Recreation in and about Boston; a handbook
of opportunities (1930)

“It contains a great collection of law reports, session laws, Federal, State, and town documents...” Some things never change!

Another particularly interesting look back into the region’s recreational history is a marketing pamphlet entitled “Come Again to New England.” The pamphlet’s introductory paragraph waxes on about the features, amenities, and recreational opportunities that abound in New England, but is particularly charming about the region’s people: “The ruggedness of her hills is reflected in the ruggedness of her people – statistics show that New Englanders live longer than the average – and that is one reason why New England is vacationland to so many thousands of visitors. Like them, if you come once, you’ll come again.” Whether this statistic is still true (or was ever true) we do not know, but the pamphlet goes on to list recreational literature about other sites throughout the region. In Massachusetts, it highlights Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket, as well as historic Plymouth, the beautiful Mohawk Trail in Western Massachusetts, and more historic and outdoorsy spots to visit.

Come Again to New England (1930)

What are your favorite things to do in Massachusetts? It’s possible that people here have been enjoying exactly what you like to do for generations. Our catalog contains a wealth of information like the histories of your favorite cultural institution, the organization of the public recreational facilities by the state’s many recreational or environmental departments since 1898, and even guidebooks that led visitors throughout our state from as early as 1829. Our old and new resources can help whether you are planning your own getaway or wondering what your great-great-grandparents might have done for fun in Boston in the 1840’s.


Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff