Monday, April 27, 2020

Preservation Week at the State Library

It’s Preservation Week! The American Library Association has designated April 26 through May 2 as a time to both celebrate and promote the importance of preservation. From physical repair, to re-housing, to environmental monitoring, libraries work hard in a number of ways to preserve their collections and ensure their accessibility for future generations. Here at the State Library, our preservation lab is located within the Special Collections Department, but it handles the collection maintenance and preservation needs of the entire library. With a collection as historical and varied as the Library’s, an on-site lab allows us to address preservation head-on and ensure the longevity of our many resources.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Preservation Week. Visit the ALA website to access preservation tools and resources, and check out the wide array of free preservation webinars also available on the site. 

We’ll be posting preservation content on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all week so be sure to follow along! If you have any preservation questions, reach out to us by email or comment on any of our posts! 

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Protect Your Privacy At Home

As we shelter in our homes in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19, many citizens of Massachusetts have found themselves completely reliant on their computers as they "telework," "work remotely," or otherwise work from home. In fact, a March 2020 Pew Research Center study regarding how Americans have used technology in response to the current pandemic found that 76% of Americans have used digital tools to communicate with others and that almost half of all U.S. adults would categorize an interruption to their Internet or phone service as a major disruption impacting their day-to-day life. Technology has allowed us to work and communicate with our coworkers, friends, and family and remain connected during this difficult time.

But in downloading new tools that help us communicate and collaborate, we often sacrifice personal privacy unknowingly. Here are some resources that can help you protect your privacy and your data while using popular online communication software.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting civil liberties online. They have many tools that can help you navigate online privacy and have been publishing multiple articles and guides regarding the online tools that we now rely on, including student learning software, health applications, and more. For a basic overview of the concerns regarding the many different tools we are using today, visit their article here:

"What You Should Know About Online Tools During the COVID-19 Crisis"(March 19, 2020)

The EFF has also published guides specific to certain popular applications being used now, such as Zoom. The following article provides specific things you can do to make sure you and your privacy are protected while using this popular communication app:

"Harden Your Zoom Settings to Protect Your Privacy and Avoid Trolls" (April 2, 2020)

The article also mentions "Zoombombing," that is, the action of individuals hacking into an online meeting in Zoom (or generally in any online communication application) and causing disruption, often with inappropriate, racist, or threatening noises or imagery. The Boston FBI Office issued security tips that will help protect you against these individuals:

"Zoom-Bombing' Hijacks Online Class Meetings In Massachusetts, FBI Warns" (March 30, 2020):

However, privacy concerns are not limited to Zoom, and further are not limited only to adults working from home. After widespread school closure, many students are continuing their semesters via online learning software and personal computers provided by their schools. These tools often have surveillance and social media-monitoring technology built into them of which many minors and their parents or guardians may not be aware. Whether you or your child's school is using Canvas, Moodle, Schoology, Google Classroom, or any other online learning software, consider reviewing the Privacy for Students guide provided by EFF:

Surveillance Self-Defense: Privacy for Students (Last reviewed March 2, 2020)

At the State Library, we take your privacy very seriously. We keep no permanent record of the Internet sites visited by library patrons on the public computers in our Reading Room, the electronic databases accessed by our patrons, or the searches performed by individual patrons. Further, we do not keep any record of the materials that you have checked out in the past using your library card. We and the other libraries that make up the C/W MARS library consortium keep anonymous circulation statistics that allow us to see how often a particular item has been checked out, but not who checked it out. For more information about privacy, you can take a look at the C/W MARS Privacy Policy here:

When downloading new online tools to help you work, learn, and connect with others online, take a moment to consider the privacy concerns with that individual platform. Even if these platforms and technologies are required for you to participate in your job or education, there are still ways to protect yourself and your data while using them.

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, April 13, 2020

Tips When Researching Legislation: Context through Visualizations

Researching Massachusetts legislation should never be panic-inducing, but it can seem overwhelming when you aren’t familiar with the best methods of attack.  After years of educating researchers on the dos, don’ts, and how-tos of legislative research, I started thinking about other ways in which I could communicate the information so that it’s easier to understand.  Tracing the history of a bill, which is part of the process of compiling a legislative history, can be quite tedious, but the process is not difficult if you have a relatable way to visualize it.

First off, it’s incredibly important for inexperienced researchers to hold back on the impulse to dive right into the middle of legislative research; understanding the context of the law (passed or not passed) should always come first.  Context is developed by tracing a bill back to its beginning, which can range from straightforward to very complex depending on the topic of the bill, general interest, and/or contention surrounding it. I can sometimes sense dread when I describe the process to a new researcher, so lately I’ve been using a visualization that is more easily graspable: the genealogical family tree.

Most everyone knows what a family tree looks like and how it’s laid out, and the further you go back, the more research is needed to fill in branches of unknown relatives.  I realized that tracing a bill is actually not that different, as the goal to suss out its origin(s) is the same, and just like family trees, it can be straightforward or very complex.  Researchers usually begin with what I call the “trunk” of the tree, which is the final version of the bill (passed or not passed). And unless the bill went straight through the legislature without any redrafts, it most likely has direct “ancestors” (previous drafts and amendments).

Here’s a good visual example of the bill history for H4099, which ultimately became Chapter 113 of the Acts of 2019.

Sometimes a successful piece of legislation is not the first time it has been introduced.  Previous failed attempts could be considered distant relatives, and they can tell you how an idea or language originally came to be--but they should not be included in your legislative “family tree” as they are not directly related to the bill you are researching.  Check out my previous blog about rejected bills.

While the State Library’s physical location is currently closed until further notice, our librarians are committed to assisting our patrons via remote services.  Reach out to us if you have a question or research need, as we are available Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm via email ( and phone (please leave a message at 617-727-2590).  We’ll get back to you as soon as possible!

Additional Resources:
Guide to Performing Massachusetts Legislative History
Massachusetts Law Resources in the State Library
Access to the State Library's Resources During Closure

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, April 6, 2020

On (Virtual) Display at the State Library

State of Massachusetts-Bay. In the House
of Representatives, January 20th, 1777...
At the beginning of each month we change the display case that is located in the reading room, and though the State Library is currently closed, we are taking this opportunity to virtually change the case and share a new item with our patrons. Featured this month is a broadside from our Special Collections Department. It was issued in 1777 and called for a supply of blankets to be provided in support of the defense of American states.

In 1777 the country was in the midst of the American Revolution. On January 20, 1777 the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a resolution that the state was required to provide aid for the Continental Army in the form of blankets. This resolution was printed as a broadside by Benjamin Edes, who also published the patriotic and influential newspaper The Boston Gazette and Country Journal. Once printed, the broadside was distributed throughout the Commonwealth with instruction for selectmen and Committees of Correspondence to share it with residents.

Faced with a supply shortage as winter set in, the resolution stated that Massachusetts was responsible for acquiring blankets for the Continental Army. The blankets were to be purchased, collected, and stored within individual towns and plantations until they were called up by the state, at which point they would be reimbursed from the public treasury. In total, the Commonwealth was required to supply 5,000 blankets, with each individual town or plantation assigned a specific number that they were responsible for providing. This broadside includes a listing of the towns and plantations and their required contribution, a number that  was seemingly based on population size. Look closely at the broadside to see that Boston - the largest town in Massachusetts - was required to provide the most at 461 blankets, while some smaller towns or individual plantations in Berkshire County and Cumberland County (now part of Maine) were only required to supply one or two blankets.

The need for blankets expressed in this broadside highlights a continuing issue that the Continental Army faced during the war. The Continental Army was still relatively new, having been formed by the Second Continental Congress in June 1775. Previously, military actions had been left to local militias, who were part-time servicemen called for temporary aid and action. The establishment of the Continental Army drew individuals from all thirteen colonies (then states, after 1776) for the purpose of the common defense. But as historian Frank E. Grizzard, Jr. writes in an essay on The Washington Papers website, “the Continental Congress’s efforts to equip and feed its army were inadequate from the start.” Supply issues like the January 1777 call for blankets were not new, and Grizzard’s essay goes into further detail on the topic. He explains that, “inadequate administrative procedures, a scarcity of money and the failure of credit, a weak transportation system, and a lack of manufacturing all combined with the natural obstacles of geography and weather to create frequent shortages of food, clothing, tents, and other military supplies throughout the war.” Despite some reforms, these challenges continued to plague the army throughout the war. Access the full article on The Washington Papers website here - and while you’re there, spend some time reading more of the correspondence of George Washington and his family.

Faced with a difficult national situation, this broadside shows that regardless of size, each town and plantation in the Commonwealth was called on to support the larger war effort. Click on the above image or access the document in DSpace to take a closer look at this document - be sure to find your own town and see the contribution they made in 1777.

By Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian