Monday, June 24, 2024

New Search Feature for Select Digital Collections

In the final installment of our blog post series about searching State Library of Massachusetts Digital Collections (SLM Digital Collections), we’ll be sharing a few extra search tips plus showcasing a new feature for searching three frequently used collections.

Before we get into the main part of this instructional post, here are a few additional search pointers:
  • Looking for a specific keyword or phrase and want to return documents that only contain a specific keyword or phrase? Use quotation marks around the keyword or phrase to get results only containing that keyword or phrase.
  • Search specific fields by entering the field name (dc.title, followed by a colon and a keyword. This particularly helpful if you are looking for a document that has a title with a keyword anywhere in the title rather than using the searching by title feature. For example, typing dc.title:boat in the search box will return search results for documents with “boat” somewhere in the title.
  • Combining a search of specific fields can be done by using Boolean operators in the search box. For example, entering AND dc.title:test in the search box will give results for documents published in 2010 and that have “test” somewhere in the title.
  • It is also possible to do a wildcard search with an *. For example, entering boat* into the search box will return results for documents containing boat, boating, boathouse, and any other variants with the root boat-.

Now let’s dive into how to leverage the search skills we learned in earlier posts in the series plus the additional search tips above to make the most of the newest search feature!

Last week a new search feature was added to the following digital collections:

At the top of the main collection pages, you will see underneath the collection summary in the header a hyperlinked caption Click here to search the contents of this community. When you click the links on one of these main collection pages you will be redirected to a search results page where it is preset to search that specific collection. In the example here we navigated the main collection page for the Acts and Resolves collection by going to the Communities & Collections tab on the navigation menu and clicking on Acts and Resolves in the list.

Next we click on the link in the description to search all the Acts and Resolves 1692 to present day.

But what if we instead had a specific date or date range in mind? There are a few ways of going about this. First, we can simply navigate to a specific subcommunity or subcollection within the Acts and Resolves collection. The subcommunities and subcollections for the Acts and Resolves are organized by date. Here we’ve selected the subcollection for 1982.

The second way of going about this can be a little complicated but it is good to know about for collections without the handy search link in the description. To keep things simple, we will continue using the Acts and Resolves to demonstrate the second option to do a date range search. It is possible to do range searches for dates in specific date fields. The date field most useful for research is since this field refers to when a document was published by a government entity.

To do a search for a specific timespan format the search like[1978 TO 1997] to return results inclusive of dates between 1978 to 1997. After the search result page refreshes navigate over to the Settings on the lower far left and select in the Sort By dropdown menu Date Issued Ascending. This will sort the results in order from 1978 to 1997.

For a wildcard search for anything beyond a specific date which includes that year format the search like[1978 TO *]. In theory this should return results up until present day but occasionally the search will only return results up to certain point. In this instance running the wildcard search for a date range like 1978 to present only returns results for 1978 to 2010.

Other ways to search within a specific date range include filtering by date. Or if you are just looking for single date using it as keyword in your search is a good method.

If a specific issue or topic is being researched in the context of Acts and Resolves and the exact year may not be known but at least the chapter number is, a Boolean search can be a powerful tool when the chapter number is combined with a keyword or phrase. For instance, entering “Chap. 0523” AND boats in the preset search results page for the entire Acts and Resolves collection will give you all the relevant results that mention Chapter 0523 and boats.

Suppose we are looking for a specific act issued in 1982 for designating a boat ramp in Plymouth Harbor as The Leo F. Demarsh Memorial Boat Ramp. In this scenario we know which chapter in the 1982 Acts and Resolves we are looking for, Chapter 0523. To immediately return the exact result we are looking for we can enter the query in 1 of 4 possible formats:
  • “chap. #XXXX” (example: “chap. #0523”)
  • “Chap. #XXXX” (example: “Chap. #0523”)
  • “chap. XXXX” (example: “chap. 0523”)
  • “Chap. XXXX” (iexample: “Chap. 0523”)
Always be sure to include quotation marks around the query so a phrase search runs and returns results for a specific chapter. Without the quotation marks a keyword search will run in DSpace and provide more results that are less specific to what you are searching for. Here we can see entering “chap. 0523” gave us exactly what were we looking for in the 1982 Acts and Resolves.

Similar approaches can be taken to searching specific subcommunities and subcollections in Bills (Legislative Documents) and House and Senate Journals, and the Massachusetts Registers after selecting the search link in the description in the header. Like the ones for the Acts and Resolves these links are preset for searches for the entire collection or specific subcommunities and subcollections.

If you want to get started on a search in the SLM Digital Collections and want to review the steps on how to get started, read our blog post from March that gives instructions how to begin. You can also read a post where we took a closer look at applying a search refining technique called a Boolean search to your SLM Digital Collections searches to yield more precise results.

Be sure to check out this post from January about browsing basics if you’re stumped about how to use the browsing filters.

You can always reach out to our reference department for assistance by emailing them at or calling 617-927-2590. Or if you are visiting our reading room, come up to the reference desk and someone can help you.

Emily Crawford
Technical Services Librarian

Monday, June 17, 2024

Embracing the Beauty: Celebrating Great Outdoors Month in Massachusetts

A view of Walden Pond, a DCR state reservation
Welcome, nature lovers, to the celebration of Great Outdoors Month! As we get ready to embrace the beauty of the natural world around us, let's first look into the history behind this annual occasion.

Great Outdoors Month is a call to our deep-rooted connection with nature and a reminder to appreciate all the great outdoors has to offer. The history of Great Outdoors Month can be traced back to a time when Americans were beginning to realize the importance of preserving our natural landscapes and fostering outdoor recreation. It was President Bill Clinton who first recognized the significance of this movement by declaring the first Great Outdoors Week in 1998. This landmark proclamation laid the foundation for what would later evolve into a month-long celebration of all things outdoors.

Since then, every June has been dedicated to honoring our parks, forests, rivers, and trails. From the magnificent landscape of the Berkshires to the quiet beauty of Cape Cod, Massachusetts offers outdoor enthusiasts a wide variety of opportunities. Hike along the picturesque trails of Mount Greylock, the state's highest peak, or paddle through the calm waters of the Charles River. Whether you're a trained adventurer or a casual nature lover, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

Additionally, Great Outdoors Month in Massachusetts isn't just about recreation; it's also a time to celebrate the state's ongoing commitment to conservation and environmental protection. Currently, one of Governor Healey’s priorities is “Climate & Clean Energy.” The Healey-Driscoll administration has created a new Climate Chief position and has goals of “doubling offshore wind and solar targets, quadrupling energy storage deployment, electrifying the public transportation fleet,” and much more. Read more about this initiative and others here.

Governor Healey highlights proposed clean energy investments in
Mass Leads Act at Ascend Elements, photo courtesy of massgovernor Flickr

Through other initiatives like the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation's Park Serve Day, volunteers come together to clean up and maintain our beloved outdoor spaces, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy them for years to come. 

Since we are the State Library, we wanted to bring your attention to some of the resources we have that can help you celebrate Great Outdoors Month and learn about the beauty surrounding you in New England.

Historical titles:

Browsing/travel titles: events and resources

If you’d like to take a look at any of the titles above, feel free to visit us. We’re located in Room 341 of the State House and are open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

We hope that you enjoy the remainder of Great Outdoors Month! Whether it's hiking through the forest, fishing in a sparkling stream, or basking in the warmth of the sun in your own backyard, there are plenty of adventures waiting for you. Happy Great Outdoors Month, everyone!

Jessica Shrey
Legal Research Reference Librarian

Monday, June 10, 2024

Pride Month Spotlights from the Special Collections Department

Special Collections houses numerous legislators’ papers pertaining to LGBTQ+ issues. Featured here are two of those collections in honor of Pride Month:

Ms. Coll. 138: Jarrett T. Barrios Papers, 1996-2005

Jarret Barrios image
courtesy of
Jarrett Barrios served as a member of both the Massachusetts House of Representatives and the Massachusetts Senate and became the first Latino and first openly gay man elected to the Massachusetts Senate. Barrios came to Cambridge at age 17 to study at Harvard University from his home state of Florida. After graduating, he worked as a legislative aide for Boston City Councilor David Scondras. In 1992, Barrios entered law school at Georgetown University where he graduated with honors. In 1998, he was elected as the State Representative for the 28th Middlesex District. He was reelected in 2000 without opposition. In 2002, the voters of his Middlesex, Suffolk and Essex District elected him to the State Senate, and he was re-elected without opposition in both 2004 and 2006. Barrios was the Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security and served on the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, Transportation, Housing, Public Health, and Municipalities and Regional Government committees.

Ms. Coll. 138 includes subject files on a variety of Barrios' legislative activities and interests, including the Community Reinvestment Act, bilingual education, insider trading, public housing, correction reform, breast feeding, emergency room interpreters, domestic partnerships, and same sex marriage. Materials include meeting notes, clippings, memoranda, press releases, agendas, schedules, correspondence, publications, photographs, and various reports and studies. Of particular interest is the material pertaining to same sex marriage, including information about the Defense of Marriage Act and civil unions, as well as correspondence from constituents protesting and supporting same sex marriage.

You can find more information about the Jarrett T. Barrios Papers in our digital repository here.

Ms. Coll. 165: Denise Provost Papers on Legislation Concerning Gender Identity and Nondiscrimination, 1997-2017, bulk 2014-2016

Denise Provost was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for the 27th Middlesex District in 2006 and served until 2020. Prior to being elected, Provost worked as Assistant City Solicitor and Alderman-at-large in Somerville. Provost received her bachelor’s degree from Bennington College and a law degree from Boston University. During her tenure as state representative, Provost served on numerous committees including the Joint Committee on Higher Education, the Joint Committee on Revenue, the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight, and the House Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change. As the representative for the 27th Middlesex District, Provost cosponsored a bill concerning gender identity and nondiscrimination with Representative Byron Rushing in 2015. Bill H.1577, known as An Act Relative to Gender Identity and Nondiscrimination, aimed to close a loophole in the 2012 Transgender Equal Rights Act, which allowed transgender people to be discriminated against in public accommodations. The language in this bill was ultimately signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker on July 8, 2016.

Ms. Coll. 165 contains personal papers related to Denise Provost’s work on the Transgender Public Accommodations bill, including newspaper clippings, press releases, city ordinances, correspondence, publications, court decisions, and committee meeting material. Also included in this collection is the material Denise Provost used to research the bill, such as information relating to transgender rights in the United States and specifically in cities across Massachusetts. Drafts of the bill and amendments made to the bill are included in the collection.

You can find more information about Denise Provost’s Ms. Coll. 165 in our digital repository here.

Both Jarrett Barrios’ and Denise Provost’s collections are open for research in the Special Collections Department. If you are interested in accessing these papers, please contact us by email to schedule a research visit. Happy Pride from the State Library!

Alyssa Persson
Special Collections Processing Librarian

Friday, June 7, 2024

The Brown Pelican Swoops into the Library

It's summer time, which means it's time to share shorebirds in our Audubon case! On display from June 7 through July 11 is plate 421, the brown pelican. Those of us in New England states might not easily see the brown pelican in the wild, as it is more commonly found along the southern East and West Coasts, and into Mexico and South America. It is shown here perched on one leg along the shoreline, with a lighthouse in the distance.

The brown pelican had been placed on the United States endangered species list in 1970 because the use of pesticides was threatening its existence. However, with the banning of several pesticides, the brown pelican population increased to the point that it was removed from the endangered list in 2009 and is now considered a species of least concern. Efforts to protect the brown pelican date to the early 1900s, when then-president Theodore Roosevelt established Pelican Island in Florida as the first federal bird reservation.

From the look of this pelican, you can guess how it feeds! Pelicans fly low over water in search of fish and then swoop down and scoop them up. Read more about the brown pelican in the Audubon Field Guide and visit our reading room to see this print in person.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

State Library Newsletter - June Issue

It's June and there's a lot happening at the State Library! From Author Talks to seasonal displays to new reference resources, catch up on all our news in this month's newsletter. Pictured here is a preview, but the full issue can be accessed by clicking here. And you can also sign up for our mailing list to receive the newsletter straight to your inbox.

Monday, June 3, 2024

On Display in the State Library - The Massachusetts Mercury

Step back in time with this month’s Collection Spotlight item. On display for the month of June is a bound volume of The Massachusetts Mercury from 1796, open to show the front page from June 21 and the last page from May 24. Take a look at the pages to see the advertisements, news articles, and shipping departure schedules that Bay Staters would have reviewed themselves over 225 years ago!

The Massachusetts Mercury was a tri-weekly newspaper, founded in 1793 and published once every three weeks by Alexander Young and Thomas Minns from their office on State Street in Boston. Following The Massachusetts Mercury through time can be a little confusing, as over the years it changed names numerous times and merged with other papers. Young and Minns were the publishers for several years and the paper was known as The Massachusetts Mercury until 1800 when its name changed to The Mercury and New-England Palladium. It was then known as The New-England Palladium from 1803 until 1814, followed by The New-England Palladium & Commercial Advertiser until 1840, when it merged with other newspapers to become The Boston Semi-Weekly Advertiser. At the time of the displayed 1796 publication, the nameplate included the Latin phrase “dulcique animos novitate tenebo” which one of our staff members was able to translate as “and I will possess an open mind towards unfamiliarity” which seems like a fitting motto for newspaper readers.

Since the volume is bound, it is displayed open to show both the last page of the May 24 edition and the front page of the June 21 edition. Because the paper was published only once every few weeks, the content spans a range of dates. The news section includes events that have occurred since the last printing, and the advertisements and notices of auctions are for upcoming dates weeks into the future. Looking closer at the content, the front page shows a surprising amount of information about ships, both listings of departure dates and destinations of passenger vessels, and advertisements to buy vessels, which emphasizes Boston's role as a port city. A fun detail is that each listing also includes a small etching of the ship mentioned! Beginning on the front page and continuing onto the interior pages are international and domestic news, with a heading reading "The foreign news in this day's Mercury will well reward an attentive person. The domestic news is all interesting." The last page is full advertisements, similar to the classified section of modern newspapers, along with a few marriage and death notices. The advertisements provide a glimpse into life in Boston at the end of the 18th century, letting us read first-hand about the types of goods and services that were offered. I've included an image below of an advertisement for watches and other jewelry.  

I like this listing because the address is 51 Newbury Street; in modern Boston, Newbury Street is known for its designer boutiques and elegant shopping, and would likely be your destination if you were looking for a fancy watch or jewelry.  But Newbury Street is part of Back Bay, which wasn't created until the 1860s. A little searching on the history of Boston streets revealed that in the 1700s, Newbury Street existed as part of what we now know of as Washington Street in the Downtown Crossing area of Boston. So even though it is not the same Newbury Street that exists today, it coincidentally would have still been the spot to visit if you were looking for fancy goods. 

As the Library’s Preservation Librarian, I love sharing items from our colonial newspaper collection as part of our outreach program, in part because they are often in remarkable condition given their age. Tour participants and social media followers are surprised to see items that are over two hundred years old in better condition than the 2004 Boston Globe that they saved to commemorate the Red Sox winning the World Series! We keep our newspapers in dark storage with controlled temperate and humidity, but the largest factor to their stable condition is that colonial newspapers were made of rag paper. Colonial paper was made from made from linen and cotton fibers or rags and is much more durable and stable than paper made from wood pulp and it doesn't become brittle or yellowed with age. It wasn’t a quick process, which is maybe why newspapers were only printed every three or four weeks!

Visit us throughout June to see The Massachusetts Mercury on display in our main reading room, and check out the full list of historical newspapers available in Special Collections here

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Author Talk with Kerri K. Greenidge

The State Library of Massachusetts Author Talks Series is excited to host Dr. Kerri K. Greenidge - historian, professor, and author of the 2023 book, The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family.

Please join us on Wednesday, June 5th, at noon, in our historic reading room for an author talk with Kerri K. Greenidge as she discusses her book, The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family. We will also be livestreaming the talk on our YouTube channel courtesy of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Broadcast Services - tune in at noon.

About the book: The Grimke Sisters, Sarah and Angelina, are well-known names in the history of the nation’s abolitionist movement. The sisters were born into a wealthy plantation owning family in South Carolina; their childhood experience influencing their abolitionist rhetoric that would sweep the North. However, author and historian, Kerri Greenidge, tells the story of the sisters’ black relatives. The brother of Sarah and Angelina had three sons with the woman he owned, Nancy Weston. Greenidge tells the story of the three sons who would go on to become prominent members of society, but Greenidge specifically focuses on the black women of the Grimke family. The Grimkes is a complex biography of an American family highlighting the contradictions in the abolitionist movement.

About the author:
Kerri Greenidge is Mellon Associate Professor in the Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora at Tufts University, and co-directs the African American Trail Project and Tufts’ Slavery, Colonialism, and Their Legacies Project. Greenidge is an award-winning historian. Her 2019 book Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter received the Mark Lynton Prize in History, the Massachusetts Book Award, the J. Anthony Lukas Award, the Sperber Award from Fordham University, and the Peter J. Gomes Book Prize from the Massachusetts Historical Society. Her writings have appeared in the Massachusetts Historical Review, the Radical History Review, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and the Guardian. For more on Greenidge, visit her professional site.

If you are able to join us in person for this talk, attendees will be able to participate in a question-and-answer session with the author as well as purchase a copy of The Grimkes. Venmo will be accepted. As always, this author talk is free and open to all. Assisted listening devices will be made available upon request. Any questions or concerns, please email us.

Want to stay up to date on future Author Talks at the State Library? Join our mailing list. Also follow us on Instagram, X, or Facebook for updates! For more information on the State Library Author talks series, please visit our site.

Author Talks Working Group

Friday, May 24, 2024

LLNE Spring 2024 Conference: History in Law - Law in History

Panel: The State of Legislative
History in New England
Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the Law Librarians of New England Spring Conference. Co-sponsored by the Association of Boston Law Librarians and hosted by the Social Law Library, the conference is a chance for area law librarians to meet, network, and discuss the advances and challenges facing our field. This year’s theme was History in Law - Law in History.

The conference included many distinguished speakers, including Law Professor Akhil Reed Amar and Chief Justice Scott L. Kafker, who spoke about state constitutional law. There was also a panel titled The State of Legislative History in New England, on which I had the honor of serving. Amongst law librarians and legislative experts from all around New England, we discussed the process, expectations, challenges, and quirks of doing legislative history research in our respective states.

At the State Library of Massachusetts, we are focused on preserving state legislative, political, and cultural history. We have guides, resources, and the tools needed to assist in conducting your Massachusetts legislative history research. We can help you with out-of-state research as well. However, when it comes to researching legislation in another state, the amount of material available can vary. For example, did you know Massachusetts is the only New England state with third-party current awareness resources, such as State House News Service and InstaTrac?

The History in Law - Law in History Conference was a great opportunity to come together with the law librarian community and reaffirm best practices. If you’re ever tasked with doing a legislative history for Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, or even at the federal level, please contact the Reference Department and we can help get you started.

April Pascucci 
Legislative Reference Librarian

Monday, May 20, 2024

Resource Spotlight: Nolo Books

State Library staff are constantly adding new resources to our collections. We keep an eye on new books being published about Massachusetts history and politics, books you might find on the New York Times Bestseller list, and of course, legal and legislative resources. One of the newest additions to our legal resources is our collection of Nolo books.

If you haven’t heard of Nolo before, or Nolo Press as they were formerly known, it is a publisher that produces “do it yourself” legal resources. These books allow people to take care of more simple legal matters on their own, such as how to write your own will or how to do legal research like a lawyer would. Nolo has been around since 1971 and they are a trusted resource in the legal world, so we’re thrilled to have added some Nolo titles to our collection.

Currently we have the following Nolo titles:

These books are in our Reference collection, so you won’t be able to check them out, but you’re always welcome to use them in the library. We’re open Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and our friendly Reference librarians are here to help! We can’t provide legal advice, but we can connect you to our Nolo books and other legal resources you may be interested in.

Another newer legal resource we wanted to make a plug for are West’s Nutshell Series books. The Nutshell Series covers a wide range of legal topics and the titles are great for someone just starting their legal research or for someone looking for a quick refresher. Read more about this resource in our blog post. Feel free to check out the other law resources we have in the library as well.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us by email or at 617-727-2590. We’re here to help!

Jessica Shrey
Legal Research Reference Librarian

Monday, May 13, 2024

Boolean Searching in SLM Digital Collections

In a previous post, we learned about how to start a search in the State Library of Massachusetts Digital Collections (SLM Digital Collections). Today we are going to take a closer look at a search refining technique called a Boolean search, which you can use to construct searches that will more precisely yield the results (and items) you are looking for.

Although some of the overall functionality and appearance of our digital repository changed significantly during the upgrade to the newest version of the platform for our digital collections, the ability to do a Boolean search remained the same. For patrons who interacted with the version of DSpace we used for our digital collections prior to the upgrade, the steps for how to do a Boolean search will seem very familiar. And if this is your first time visiting the SLM Digital Collections or you want a refresher on Boolean searching, the instructions in this post can help you find out how to do a Boolean search.

First, we will review what a Boolean search is—it is a kind of search commonly used on websites and search engines where you can limit, define, or broaden your search using operators and symbols.

The operators commonly used and what we use for Boolean searches in SLM Digital Collections are AND, OR and NOT. It is important to note that the plus sign (+) commonly used as a substitute for AND is not enabled as a Boolean operator for searching our digital collections. Neither is the minus sign (-), commonly used as a substitute for NOT, enabled in the search functions.

To use Boolean operators either use in all caps or all lowercase between each keyword. Each operator functions in a unique way:
  • AND returns results with words appearing together in documents (example: boats AND harbors)
  • OR returns results for documents containing either word (example: boats OR harbors)
  • NOT returns results for documents containing one word and excluding the other word (example: boats NOT harbors)
Any query of 2 or more words essentially operates as the “AND” in a Boolean search and will yield results with both or all the words from the search in it. We will go through an example of how to apply a Boolean operator in the search box. So, if we typed into the search box boats harbor it yields the same number of results as if we had entered boats AND harbor. The query doesn’t have to be a phrase in this case but can be words that appear together in the documents we want to see. We can use more than 2 words at a time like in the query boats AND harbor AND fish.

Of course, we can also use the Boolean operator AND for pairing together specific phrases to find a specific set of documents. In this case we are interested in finding back issues of DMF News because we remember there was at least one issue that mentioned bluefin tuna fisheries, the Boston harbor and party boats all in the same issue. Rather than navigating through the maze of the communities and collections associated with Department of Marine Fisheries in SLM Digital Collections we can create a Boolean search for this that will find the DMF News issue(s) we are looking for.

First, we need to navigate to the search results page and select the community Division of Marine Fisheries to be entered inside the box next to the search box. The second step is coming up with a list of phrases to use-- bluefin tuna fishery, Boston Harbor, charter and party boats, and DMF News. Now we need to format the phrases properly to construct the search query. When using specific phrases in a DSpace search, Boolean or otherwise, it is important to add quotation marks around the phrase. In this case to construct the search query we need to enter “bluefin tuna fisheries” AND “Boston Harbor” AND “charter and party boats” AND “DMF News” in the search box and press enter, which should return only 10 results for back issues of DMF News covering these topics.

However, we’re seeing some results that aren’t issues of DMF News. It looks like the majority of them are DMF annual reports. This simply means we need to be a little more specific with the phrase “DMF News” in the query string.

To do this we can search with the title field (dc.title) by rewriting this portion of the string as AND dc.title:”DMF News.” And the 10 issues of DMF News are now the only items appearing in the search results.

However, we decided that we only want the issues mentioning the Boston harbor and party boats. If we removed the phrase “bluefin tuna fisheries” from the beginning of our query and moved it to the end using the NOT operator like this “Boston Harbor” AND “charter and party boats” AND dc.title:”DMF News” NOT “bluefin tuna fisheries,” we would get results that excludes the phrase bluefin tuna fisheries but does include results of Boston Harbor and charter and party boats appearing specifically in 3 issues of DMF News.

Now that we have gone over how to do Boolean searching on the SLM Digital Collections website, you have the know-how to do your own Boolean searches!

If you are feeling stuck at any point using Boolean operators in a search while using SLM Digital Collections, you can reach out to our reference department for assistance by email or by calling 617-927-2590. Or if you are visiting our reading room, come up to the reference desk and someone can help you.

Emily Crawford
Technical Services Librarian

Thursday, May 9, 2024

It's Hummingbird Season in the Library!

Once the calendar turns to May, the region gets ready to welcome the ruby-throated hummingbird back from its winter migration! These fast-moving birds might be hard to spot out in the wild, so we've made it easy on you by selecting the ruby-throated hummingbird (plate 47) as our featured Audubon. This print shows the male (labeled 1), female (labeled 2), and young (labeled 3). They are all depicted fluttering around the trumpet flower. 

After spending the winter months in Florida, Central America, and Mexico, the ruby-throated hummingbird heads north for its breeding season. According to the Mass Audubon website, if you are looking to welcome the hummingbird back with feeders, then it is best to place them outside from the end of April into the first week of May. 

The colorful ruby-throated hummingbird is the only hummingbird that nests east of the Great Plains, and is commonly seen in Massachusetts. Both males and females have glossy green feathers covering their bodies, and as per its name, the male has a it has a bright red gorget (area covering its throat). The hummingbird's wings beat about 53 times per second, and since it burns so much energy, it must consume more than its own weight each day to stay alive!

Visit us from May 9 through June 7 to see the hummingbird on display in our reading room. 

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Idea City Panel with David Gamble, Matthew Kiefer, and Rosalyn Negron

The State Library of Massachusetts Author Talks Series is excited to host a panel discussion with David Gamble, Matthew Kiefer, and Rosalyn Negrón!

Please join us on Wednesday, May 15th at noon, in our historic reading room for a discussion between David Gamble, Matthew Kiefer, and Rosalyn Negron, all contributors to the recently published Idea City: How to Make Boston More Livable, Equitable, and Resilient (UMASS Press, 2023). The book addresses a range of the challenges that Boston contends with in the twenty-first century and considers ways to improve the city for everyone. Many of the issues tackled, including resiliency, mobility, affordable housing, public health, social equity, and economic equality are of ever-increasing relevancy for cities around the world. The conversation, taking Boston as a case study, will provide food for thought for dedicated urbanists, whether involved in public policy, the design and planning of our cities, or simply involved and concerned urban citizens.


David Gamble
AIA AICP LEED AP is a Lecturer in Urban Design and Planning in the Department of Urban Studies at MIT. An architect and urban planner and Principal of Cambridge-based Gamble Associates, his research and writing investigate the catalytic effects of urban design and planning projects with a focus on the creative implementation strategies to overcome barriers to redevelopment. David is Author and Editor of “Idea City” (UMass Press, 2023) and co-author of “Rebuilding the American City” (co-author Patty Heyda, Routledge Press, 2016). He received his Masters of Architecture in Urban Design from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard.

Matthew J. Kiefer
practices real estate development and land use law at Goulston & Storrs in Boston and is a Lecturer in Real Estate at Harvard's Graduate School of Design. His practice focuses on the nexus of private initiative and public policy and obtaining parcel dispositions and entitlements from public agencies for complex urban projects. He has a particular focus on cross-sectoral projects that address unique policy, feasibility and design challenges. Matthew has written and spoken widely on land use topics. He is a graduate of Boston University and the University of Michigan Law School, and was a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard GSD.

Rosalyn Negrón
is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she is also Research Director for the Sustainable Solutions Lab. Rosalyn's research is primarily driven by issues of health and well-being, with particular attention to the role of decision-making, social connections, and social environments. A past Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, Rosalyn’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health, the Max Planck Institute for Religious and Ethnic Diversity, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She leads several projects, including the Sustainable Solutions Lab climate adaptation stakeholder mapping project, and an NSF study to understand the complex factors that shaped Puerto Ricans' decision to leave or stay in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Beyond Puerto Rico, she has done research in Jamaica, Florida, New York City, and Boston. Rosalyn is a leader in transdisciplinary research and directs UMass Boston’s Transdisciplinary Dissertation Proposal Development program.

We will be livestreaming the talk on our YouTube channel courtesy of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Broadcast Services - tune in at noon.

If you are able to join us in person for this talk, attendees will be able to participate in a question-and-answer session with the authors as well as purchase a copy of Idea City. Books are $30.00; cash, check, and Venmo are accepted. As always, this author talk is free and open to all. Assisted listening devices will be made available upon request. Any questions or concerns, please email us at

Want to stay up to date on future Author Talks at the State Library? Join our mailing list. Also follow us on Instagram, X, or Facebook for updates! For more information on the State Library Author talks series, please visit our site.

Author Talks Working Group

Monday, May 6, 2024

Collection Spotlight: North American Civic League for Immigrants Records, 1908-1946

In 1907, a committee was appointed by the Boston YMCA to investigate what was called “the immigration problem.” This committee, formed in 1908 and chaired by Dr. Chauncy Brewer, was the North American Civic League for Immigrants. The stated purpose of the League was “the betterment of the immigrant, with primary instruction in civics for a ‘patriotic purpose.’” The League’s agents met immigrants at ship ports and train terminals and aided them in the naturalization process. They helped immigrants secure employment and housing, as well as teaching night classes and giving lectures both in English and immigrants’ native languages. The library holds the League's records from 1908 through 1946 (MS Coll. 24). 

League offices formed in many other cities throughout the Northeast and their publications were distributed at libraries across the nation. Pamphlets within the collection list investigations the League conducted at ports of entry and industrial workplaces in an effort to ensure safe conditions. Annual reports describe individual instances in which immigrants were helped by members of the League. Some examples of this are as follows: securing a lawyer, assisting with bank loans and taxes, obtaining wages unlawfully withheld, and aiding a man “who wrongfully supposed wife had sunk on steamer Ancona.” 

While the League certainly provided practical and needed assistance to new and recent immigrants, the League’s stated purposes and goals for doing so reveal less than altruistic motivations. Materials within the collection describe the intention to assimilate and “Americanize” immigrants through League programs, discouraging the continued use of native languages and cultural practices deemed un-American. League publications also express antipathy to labor movements and organizations.

In the League’s 1915-1916 annual report, Dr. Brewer writes,

“The League was organized to do what it might to mitigate the greatest peril that has ever threatened the American people and the principles of its Democracy, - to bring home to loyal people the fact that the extraordinary immigration from over seas was nothing less than an invasion of people untrained in self-government, and, pending national action, to secure such retaining points among the great foreign population as should help it to thwart the plans of revolutionaries and agitators.”

The League’s 1918-1919 annual report states,

“The theory upon which the League bases its programs is as follows: most immigrants are well disposed on entering the United States but do not so continue because of the necessary struggle for existence or exploitation. The alien must therefore be reached as early as possible in his first year of residence. If this is done he may become a useful resident. If it is not done he becomes a menace. In order to rightly influence the immigrant the League has found it necessary to secure his confidence.”

The collection offers a glimpse into the struggles facing immigrants to the United States in the first half of the 20th century, as well as the attitudes surrounding their arrival by those within the League and adjacent organizations. The finding guide for the North American Civic League for Immigrants Records can be found on the State Library’s digital repository.

Alyssa Persson
Special Collections Processing Librarian

Thursday, May 2, 2024

State Library Newsletter - May Issue

Happy May! Catch up on our new books, displays, and upcoming catalog upgrade in this month's newsletter. Pictured here is a preview, but the full issue can be accessed by clicking here. And you can also sign up for our mailing list to receive the newsletter straight to your inbox.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Preservation Week at the State Library!

Happy Preservation Week! Established by the American Library Association in 2005, Preservation Week is a yearly event that raises awareness for preservation work undertaken in library, archives, and museums to safeguard our shared cultural heritage. Preservation Week is also a time to encourage the public to think about actions that they can take to protect their own personal collections. This year, it is celebrated from April 28 through May 4 with the theme "Preserving Identities." 

In our Collection Spotlight case, we’re kicking off Preservation Week by highlighting an item that has benefited from preservation work and also aligns with May’s designation as Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) month. Last year, we shared a few facsimiles from an album titled “Photographs of Schools,” which was produced by the Hawaii Department of Education and donated to the State Library in July 1924. It comprises seventeen photographs of Hawaiian schools, teachers, and students dating from sometime between 1897 and 1922. This year, we’re sharing the album itself in our Collection Spotlight case. The reason that we can share the actual item instead of facsimiles is because our Collection Spotlight case is specifically designed to protect exhibited items. One of the largest threats to archival items is light damage, from both natural and artificial light sources, which accumulates over time and cannot be reversed. As such, it is optimal for archival items to remain in dark storage unless they are being accessed by a researcher - but this at odds with the desire to display archival items! Luckily, our Collection Spotlight case has been designed with this in mind, and its glass panel is “SmartGlass” which has UV filters and a layer of light-controlling film. When not in use, the glass portion of the case is dark, until it is activated by a button which lights the case for 30 seconds. This allows the case to remain dark for the majority of the time but illuminated when a visitor wants to view the exhibited item, allowing us to safely display even our more sensitive items, like the photograph album we’re sharing this month. Regular readers of our blog may have noticed that the contents of our Collection Spotlight case changes every month. This is another preventative preservation measure, as a monthly exhibit rotation limits the amount of time that an archival item spends out its controlled storage environment. 

Another way that this scrapbook has benefited from preservation initiatives is that it has been digitized. The most obvious benefit of digitization is that it makes our collection more accessible to a wider audience who can access it remotely, but from a preservation standpoint, it is also beneficial because it reduces the amount of handling that the item receives. The more an item is handled, the higher the likelihood is that it will be damaged. By having researchers access a digital surrogate, we can preserve the integrity of the original and ensure its longevity. We do some digitization on-site, but we also send larger projects to vendors off-site. 

This month, we’ve displayed the album open to a show an image of pupils in front of the Kawaiaha’o Common School (above) and an image of a few of the teachers grouped with a few students (right). The Common School was originally the Old Mission School House, founded in the 1830s by missionary Sybil Bingham.  Unfortunately, only two of the images can be exhibited, but the album in  its entirety can be viewed here. And another preservation note, if we were to exhibit this album again, we would select different pages to open it to. 

Stop by the library throughout the month of May to see this scrapbook on display, and follow along as we share preservation content on our social media channels all week! You can also check out our two preservation focused Flickr pages for examples of work done in our lab and preservation tips you can use at home.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, April 22, 2024

Compiling a Legislative History: M.G.L. ch.6 §39B (Part 2)

Welcome back! Last week we learned that chapter 412 of the 1984 Acts created our beloved M.G.L. ch.6 §39B. This week we are going to investigate the origins of chapter 412 by tracing its bill history. 

As the guide indicates, once you’ve found the act, you need to find the original bill number. Full disclosure, my millennial-librarian-muscle-memory took over and I did what I normally do instead of following the steps spelled out in the guide (more on that later).

Strictly following the guide, the way to go about finding the bill number is to consult the Bulletin of Committee Work. There is a volume for each year from 1907 to 2000. We need the one from 1984 which fortunately falls within that time range. Unfortunately, this resource isn’t available digitally (yet), which means you will have to visit a library that has a copy. In the Bulletin, start with the section “Acts and Resolves Signed by the Governor” – this section is tacked on at the end of each volume. Heads up, these volumes don’t have tables of contents, nor do they have any uniform pagination because each volume is a bound collection of the individual bulletins (each with their own pagination) produced by each committee. At least the committee bulletins within the volumes are mercifully arranged in alphabetical order by committee name. [1]

Returning to the “Acts and Resolves Signed by the Governor” section (again, at the back of the Bulletin volume), you will need to look up the Act – in case it hasn’t been burned into your memory by now, ours is Chapter 412 of the Acts of 1984.

The entry for Chapter 412 of the Acts of 1984 gives us our bill number – House Bill 4279:

If that process sounds too tedious, you can do what I initially did: go to our online repository, type in the name of the act ("AN ACT PROVIDING FOR THE ORDERLY DISTRIBUTION OF STATE PUBLICATIONS") in the search bar and scroll through the results until you find the bill that is closest in date to the act. However, the main reason to avoid this method is that it potentially increases the margin of error: bill names can vary from the name of the act, you might not select the right bill (especially if multiple iterations exist), etc. I will say that the benefit of doing it my way is that it can turn up the other versions or relatives of the bill – such as 1983 House Bill 5035 and 1983 House Bill 6295. Check out this past blog post on rejected bills which offers a good overview of why you should consider them in your research.

Once we have the bill number – now we can look up the bill in our digital repository (if you haven’t done so already).

Before we get to the actual text of House Bill 4279, it’s worthwhile to check the information below the Bill number. Here you can find the names of people and committee(s) involved in initiating the Bill. In this case, the committee is “State Administration.”

If you feel so inclined, you can go back to the Bulletin of Committee Work and consult the Committee on State Administration’s bulletin. Senate Bills are listed first, but since we know ours is a House Bill we can skip ahead to where the numbers start with an H and then look for H4279:

You can then repeat the process for the House Committee on Ways and Means. I’m not going to say that this is an unnecessary step; however, once you have the bill number, you can just look up the bill’s history in either the Legislative Record for 1984 (companion to the Bulletin of Committee Work of the same year) or the “Bill History” section of the Index volume of the 1984 Journal of House of Representatives. These provide a chronology all in one place and don’t require you to hop around looking up each committee and scanning for the bill number. Like the Bulletin of Committee Work, the Legislative Record isn’t online; however, the Journal is.

Bill History – Legislative Record:

 Bill History – House Journal:

Page 2468 of volume 3 of the 1984
Journal of the House of Representatives

The condensed information printed in both sources should be the same (it’s always best to double check though!). The abbreviations refer to dates as well as page numbers of either Journal of the House of Representatives (a.k.a., House Journals commonly abbreviated as HJ) or Journal of the Senate (a.k.a., Senate Journals commonly abbreviated as SJ). The first entry, for example: “1/9-HOUSE-Referred to the committee on State Administration -HJ462A” is another way of saying that in the House of Representatives referred this bill to the committee on State Administration on January 9th, 1984 and is noted on page 462A of 1984 House Journal. This glossary of legislative terms can be useful when trying to parse these entries. You can then check each citation in the House Journals and Senate Journals for 1984 to see if there is any additional information.

As explained in the blog post on rejected bills which I mentioned earlier, these histories only correspond to the bill as filed. They aren’t going to include anything before that (even if there were earlier attempts at getting this legislation passed). Depending on what questions you are hoping to answer through compiling this legislative history, you might need to go back to those other versions and repeat portions of this process (see this past blog post for additional tips).

We’ve now reached the “additional resources” part of the guide. I’m only going to spend time on one of these because they are a resource for which we get frequent requests despite the fact that the State Library does not collect them: legislative packets. The State Archives collects legislative packets. These packets contain whatever material is submitted with the passed act to the Archives and they can be extremely useful when trying to figure out legislative intent (what the researcher is usually after when compiling a legislative history); but be warned: these packets are a mixed bag – in any given packet there could be a useful material or there could be virtually nothing (regardless of how monumental the legislation was). The packet for Chapter 412 of the Acts of 1984 was only 15 pages – the text of the bill with some margin notes (mostly corrections) along with signed and dated forms for the various stages of the bill, e.g. verifying that 1st, 2nd, and 3rd readings had taken place.

I realize that this apparent roadblock isn’t the most inspiring way to conclude our search. Arguably we could continue by considering more of the additional sources listed in the guide, such as contemporary newspapers or journals. The bill histories gave us plenty of names and dates we could search. We could also check the Library’s collection of legislator’s papers and see if there are papers from any of the individuals who sponsored or were on the committees involved with the bill. [2]

The exact stopping point depends on the researcher (I don’t know about you but I’ve well beyond satisfied any possible curiosity I had regarding this law). It’s important to keep in mind that this was a fairly straightforward piece of legislation to research, and it still took up a good chunk of time and required outside resources. [3]

I hope this gives you some idea as to the amount of work that goes into compiling a legislative history.

Maryellen Larkin
Reference & Government Documents Librarian

[1] House Rules, Joint Rules, and Senate Rules are treated within the larger Committee on Rules and are organized respectively.
[2] Try not to confuse legislative packets held at the State Archives with the legislator’s papers held at the State Library’s Special Collections.
[3] A special thank you to the archivists at the State Archives for helping me find the legislative packet!