In this month’s news and updates:

Pathways to Inclusion Announcement

The Massachusetts Library System (MLS) is pleased to announce that CultureAlly has been selected to work with us on our Pathways to Inclusion: Strategies for Diverse Library Workforce Development project.

CultureAlly is on a mission to help create inclusive, equitable practices and environments for employees and the communities they serve. As a racial minority and women-owned company, they bring unique professional insights and a personal commitment to fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in everything they do. Their DEI consulting approach is rooted in empathy, respect, and transparency.

With over a decade of experience in conducting comprehensive environmental scans, interviews, and focus groups, including for libraries, public service entities, and non-profit organizations, they are well-equipped to address the unique challenges and opportunities to recruit underrepresented groups for library employers.

In conjunction with the MLS FY24 Action Plan, this project will support our goal to explore how we might be able to encourage individuals from underrepresented communities to pursue a career in librarianship.

Our work together will begin this fall, and we will share more details soon!

Leadership Program Progress Update

During the past year, we have been strategically exploring and building an infrastructure for a library staff leadership development program that will support all levels of library staff to lead and champion the value and potential of their libraries. This work supports our 2021-2026 Strategic Plan and represents Strategic Initiative 2, Goal 1 of our FY24 Action Plan.

Throughout the year, MLS Consultant Oscar Lanza-Galindo conducted 15 in-depth interviews with leaders in library sciences and leadership development programs to gather feedback and perspectives on trends and themes at the local, state, and national levels – ranging from libraries of different types, which serve various types of patrons. In addition, Oscar explored how leadership programs across the country develop and provide their stakeholders with the support and resources to be effective leaders.

Now the focus shifts towards building an infrastructure that will provide high-quality, engaging, and experiential training in leadership best practices; generate a dynamic, lively network among library professionals across Massachusetts; and prepare participants to transfer and amplify leadership learning for a wider, deeper adoption in their home libraries. This work supports Strategic Initiative 2, Goal 1 of our FY25 Action Plan.

We plan to share more news as we further develop this program.

PLA Conference Scholarship Data and Testimonials

This past fiscal year, MLS offered a scholarship to enable staff from small public libraries to attend the Public Library Association (PLA) Conference in Columbus, OH, from April 3-5, 2024. This scholarship was funded through the support of a budget amendment championed by Senator Jacob Oliveira.

All staff who worked in Massachusetts public libraries in towns with a population under 15,000 were eligible to apply for a scholarship. Each eligible library was invited to submit one application. The scholarship included reimbursement up to $2,500 to attend the PLA Conference, along with reimbursement up to $500 for the library to hire a substitute to cover the staff member’s shifts while they were attending the PLA Conference.

In total, MLS funded 44 scholarships. Scholarship recipients came from libraries that serve 46 towns. The median size town had a population of 6,127. Scholarship recipients came from a diversity of library staff positions, including directors (48%), managers/supervisors (23%), librarians (16%), and paralibrarians (14%).

All scholarship recipients completed an outcomes report to evaluate and document their experience at the PLA Conference. The data demonstrates that this scholarship program was an overwhelming success:

98% of scholarship recipients (43 recipients) agreed that:

  • The scholarship is helping them accomplish their professional development goals.
  • They learned something by attending the conference.

95% of scholarship recipients (42 recipients) agreed that:

  • Applying what they learned will make a positive difference.
  • They would recommend this conference to others.

In addition, scholarship recipients expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to attend the PLA Conference:

  • “A generous thank you again for this incredible opportunity for without it, I would not have been able to attend. And I’m afraid I’ve got the PLA bug! I truly loved my first PLA Conference experience, and words alone cannot express my gratitude in being awarded this precious opportunity.”
  • “I’m so grateful to have received this scholarship. My library is small and funds are very limited, so I would not have been able to attend otherwise. It was a great experience. I learned a lot, and came back with many ideas about how to improve services for my patrons.”
  • “I had an amazing experience at the Public Library Association Conference. It was refreshing to be surrounded by librarians from across the country and Canada. Throughout the conference, I felt I had similar experiences with the presenters, and I was grateful for their wisdom, advice, and tips. Being from a small town, I don’t believe I would have been able to attend this conference without the MLS grant. I’m so grateful and thankful that I was given the opportunity to attend the PLA Conference. Thank you!”

Over the next couple of months, we will provide additional updates to share more about scholarship recipients’ experiences and learnings from the PLA Conference. In the meantime, feel free to explore our PLA Conference Scholarship LibGuide page.

Thank you again to Senator Oliveira who championed the funding amendment that made this scholarship possible.

Delivery Open House and New Video

Delivery Open House at Wilmington Facility

On May 23, MLS and Optima Shipping hosted a Delivery Open House at the Wilmington sorting facility. Over 60 library workers saw how the Wilmington site handles library materials destined for delivery to and from libraries in the Boston, Northeast, and MetroWest areas. This facility has a high volume, and on average 20,000 to 25,000 items are sorted daily.

During the Open House, Optima’s Jim Blondek and Chris Nock explained how the operation works and answered questions. Attendees watched vans arrive at the warehouse, materials sorted using sort-to-light, and then staged to be delivered the next day. Thank you to all those who attended, and we look forward to hosting more in the future.

New Delivery Video

Interested in learning how Delivery works? We are happy to share our new Delivery video featuring the sorting process at Optima warehouses. A big THANK YOU to Optima Shipping for allowing us to make this video at our May Delivery Open House.

We encourage you to share this video with your colleagues and stakeholders.

Member Annual Meeting Reminder

The MLS globe icon with text above reading: "Member Annual Meeting"As a reminder, the MLS Member Annual Meeting is Monday, October 28, 2024 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Devens Common Center!

We invite all staff at MLS member libraries to join us this fall! We look forward to sharing more details, including registration information, in the coming months. Until then, please save the date and contact MLS Event & Project Manager Sarah Donnelly ( with any questions. Visit our LibCal page for more details.

MLS is on LinkedIn!

MLS is now active on LinkedIn! We are looking forward to connecting with workers at our member libraries and sharing updates about our programs and services.

Follow our page to stay up to date with MLS!

A Visit to the Concord Free Public Library

On June 12, several members of MLS’ Consulting & Training Services Department visited the Concord Free Public Library to tour the library and hold a department meeting.

Our tour took us throughout the library including stops at the Munroe Gallery, the Teen Lounge, the Children’s Library, and the Workshop, where patrons can access tools and materials for their own crafting projects.

Our last stop was with the Special Collections team, who graciously showed us archives of historical Concord literature, art, and more. Examples included Henry David Thoreau’s surveys of Walden Pond and portions of Louisa May Alcott’s original draft of “Little Women.”

Thank you to Library Director Emily Smith and the entire Concord Free Public Library staff for providing us with a great tour and the space to host our meeting!

Entrance of the Concord Free Public Library Paintings and art on displace in a room. Book stacks and tables in the teen space at the Concord Free Public Library. A mural and books in the children's section of the Concord Free Public Library. A wood table and a sign on the wall reading: "The Workshop."