Annual Report

Like many of our libraries, FY20 began with good plans to offer consistent and responsive services to our members…and ended with a shift in almost everything: methods of service delivery, expectations, and advocacy.

  • We began FY20 with another move. Our Marlborough office moved about 5 miles west to 33 Boston Post Rd West. We reduced our square footage (and lease costs) while gaining a better workflow setup, a bigger training space, and plenty of workspace for visitors and staff. In traditional times, our space is available to members for booking events and meetings.
  • We created our new strategic plan! Consultant Stephanie Chase led us through our first virtual-only planning process, with an emphasis on member participation. I am very proud of our NEW Strategic Plan 2021-2024 and I am pleased to share it with you! Our new plan will allow us to focus on the specific things members need from MLS, while being flexible enough to adapt to what comes our way. Find additional info HERE.
  • Members used our services more than ever! Many of our services and programs saw record highs in FY20.

Please read the full report to learn more about MLS and the work we’ve accomplished.

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Career Resources Week 12/7/20 - 12/11/20

Libraries have always played a role in helping patrons build career and job search skills, but in the age of COVID-19, these services are more important than ever. During MLS Career Resource Week, the Massachusetts Library System will present a new program each day to help libraries support their communities during this challenging time.

You may attend one, several, or all five events, but please register for each separately. All programs will be recorded. For all programs except Thursday’s Career Resources Deep Dive workshop, feel free to register even if you can’t make it live, and we’ll send you a recording and related materials afterwards. (We will record parts of Thursday’s workshop also, but live seats are limited!)

Suggest a Career Resource!
Do you have a favorite career or employment-related resource that you think all librarians should know about it? Please share it with us so we can add it to the MLS Career Resource LibGuide (to be published in conjunction with Career Resource Week).

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BiblioTemps Presents Career Transitions Series (for Library Workers)

Coming Soon in the Spring of 2021!

As a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic, MLS is seeing an essential need for individuals within the library community to build skills related to job searching, interviewing, and other aspects of career development. In 2021 BiblioTemps® will be hosting a series of webinars called “Career Transitions” which will help library workers build these skills. This series of webinars has been made possible through CARES Act funding to the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services as administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. 

We are now accepting presentation proposals for the “Career Transitions” series. More information is available on our website.

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The Transition to Virtual Training

The COVID-19 pandemic changed many aspects of our lives, but one thing that hasn’t changed is MLS’s commitment to providing outstanding trainings for our members.  We wanted to briefly highlight how we have transitioned our trainings to meet the changing nature of library work during the pandemic.

Because of the pandemic, MLS suspended in-person training on March 13, 2020.  This meant that most of our Spring 2020 trainings had to be cancelled.  However, to ensure that library staff had the chance to continue learning during the pandemic, our Consultants quickly moved some of their trainings online:

  • Converting Spring 2020 Training: The Consultants converted content from a number of their Spring 2020 in-person classes into an online format, including trainings on time management, weeding, creating visual content using Canva, developing surveys, and connected learning.
  • Offering COVID-19 Related Trainings: The Consultants offered a number of trainings that were specifically intended to address issues raised by the pandemic, including self-care, streaming story-times, summer planning, storytelling for a virtual summer, and hosting online games.
  • Providing Other Training Opportunities: The Consultants also scheduled several non-COVID-19 related trainings, to ensure that library workers had the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the needs of their patrons now and into the future, including trainings on middle school services, early literacy, world language collections, multilingual storytimes, and Project Ready.

Read the full report HERE.

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Service and Program Updates

Database Access

Did you know that Massachusetts uses geolocation to make accessing the statewide databases easier? This means that patrons don’t need a login to get the information they need and can access the resources without barriers. In partnership with the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, MLS provides support and member access to Britannica, Gale, and ProQuest.

Due to the pandemic, the majority of our support questions have been about out-of-state access for students’ and teachers from our academic and K-12 members. Since geolocation only works from within Massachusetts, patrons need a public library card to access the databases but that can be difficult to obtain. The standard workaround for this issue is to get a free eCard from the Boston Public Library (BPL). Patrons can register for a BPL eCard and start using it within minutes of activation. Patrons can then use the barcode of the BPL eCard to access the statewide databases from outside of Massachusetts. Additionally, the BPL also offers a plethora of online resources that can be accessed with a BPL eCard.

Do you have other questions about the statewide databases? Check out our databases FAQ. You can also contact a member of the MLS databases support team for help at

Upcoming Database Training Sessions:

Simplify Student Research with Gale
December 16, 2020 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM

Help your students work smarter, not harder to find credible sources when they’re tempted to “Google it.” In this webinar, we’ll explore time-saving features that will win students over to your Gale databases including built-in citations, peer-reviewed and full-text filters, “more like this” articles, and Google Drive/Microsoft OneDrive integration.

Britannica School: New and Improved
Thursday, December 10, 2020 4:00pm – 5:00pm

Britannica School is new and improved! Join the Encyclopedia Britannica trainers for a 50-minute webinar to learn about the new enhancements to Britannica School, coming in late October 2020 that drive student engagement in both virtual and in-person classrooms.

For more information about the statewide databases, visit our LibGuide.

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Summer Library Program

Despite significant challenges posed by the COVID-19 Pandemic, over 250 public libraries throughout Massachusetts provided imaginative and inspired summer reading and learning programs to their communities during the 2020 Statewide Summer Library Program, Imagine Your Story. “During a typical summer, library summer programs are vital to preventing learning loss. But this year, with school closures, summer library programs were even more important,” said Sarah Sogigian, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Library System (MLS). “Librarians are to be commended for the innovation and determination they demonstrated in making the summer programs possible despite difficult circumstances.”

With almost every building closed to the public, libraries across the Commonwealth held an astonishing 13,000 number of events hosting over 438,000 attendees of all ages! Nearly every library provided virtual programming from storytime to book groups to LEGO™ clubs to escape rooms. Taking advantage of the warm summer weather, libraries also held events outdoors and created Storywalks™ or scavenger hunts that could be done at a safe distance from others. Drive-thru and pop-up libraries provided community members with materials to browse and the chance to say “hello” to library staff in-person. Libraries handed out hundreds of “make and take” crafts and activity kits. Curbside pick-up of library items and program materials kept libraries extraordinarily busy and yet they also continued to provide reference services and book recommendations by phone or email.

More than just numbers, this level of outreach and community engagement had an enormous impact on library users of all ages. Many librarians commented on how appreciative their patrons were for the services and programs provided over such an unusual summer. One parent wrote, “I would like to express my sincere gratitude for your efforts to get books and activities out to our community … thank you to all that keep books circulating!” Virtual programs often offered community and continuity during a difficult time. As one library worker put it, “It proved to us that we could still have a connection despite the separation.” This outcome of connection could best be summed up by this comment from the Eldredge Public Library, “The Summer Library Program became a great way for people to stay connected with the library while our doors were closed, we used so many different types of formats for programming that we reached a diverse and wide population in our town.” Check out Summer Fun photos submitted by libraries.

MLS and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners work together each summer to bring the beloved Boston Bruins partnership to libraries. Blades the Bear visits were suspended this summer but the collaboration continued in the form of the first ever First Lady of the Commonwealth and Blades Summer Reading Challenge. Despite the difficulties posed by library buildings being closed to the public, libraries reported high participation. In total, challenge participants read over 11,000 books and over 1.7 million minutes! Massachusetts libraries are already planning for “Tails & Tales”, the summer 2021 slogan featuring animals from around the world and under the sea!

For more information, contact: April Mazza, MLS Consultant, or Christi Showman Farrar, MLS Consultant,

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Teen Summit

The Massachusetts Library System and the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services co-hosted the 11th Teen Summit on October 2, 2020. The daylong event kicked off with author Adrienne Kisner who spoke about current events and her writing in her lively keynote presentation entitled, “May Contain Hazardous Materials”.

Other topics from library staff around New England included YA books & reading, civic engagement, computational thinking, teen-led programming, LGBTQ+ programs, and teen volunteers. The baby animals from the Hancock Shaker Village surprised participants at the end of the day for a fun and informational video visit. Attendees were encouraged to share their take-aways during the wrap-up session and thanks to several donors there were several random-drawing winners receiving books, goody-bags, and virtual prizes.

The entirely virtual Teen Summit was free and open to all library staff who work with teens, in any library type, across the country. Of the over 400 registrants 286 attended live. All sessions were recorded and can be found at the MLS Vimeo Teen Summit Showcase, with Closed Captioning optional.

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