Cathy Collins is the Library/Media Specialist at Sharon High School
Patsy Divver is the School Librarian at Millis Middle/High School
In fact, the MBLC and MLS are connected. The MBLC was established in 1890 under Chapter 78 of the Massachusetts General Laws and is the agency of state government with the statutory authority and responsibility to improve library services throughout the Commonwealth. According to a chart, “Massachusetts Library Funding”, the MBLC “supports, improves, and promotes library services throughout the Commonwealth.” The funding chart displays the various programs the MBLC supports, one of which is MLS. MBLC receives its funding from the Massachusetts state legislature, as well as the federal government via the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). MLS, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), is funded in its entirety by the Massachusetts state legislature through funds administered by the MBLC.
MLS is a fairly young organization. Its charge, as stated in the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 78, Section 19c, is to provide “reference and research services, interlibrary loan, delivery, and other regional services to public, school, academic, and special libraries.” It was founded in 2010 as a statewide organization meant to replace and consolidate services previously carried out by six regions in the state. Although the consolidation came about due to budget cuts and a loss of local and more personalized services, a silver lining emerged. Having services coordinated by a statewide organization has meant that communication and collaboration are statewide, and thus, initiatives are centralized and efforts are not duplicated in six different regions.
MA eContent Continues to Improve
It is via the MLS and its staff that we receive workshops and trainings in a variety of skills and content areas (with PDP’s) We also receive electronic resources, cooperative buying services, delivery services, and more. The MLS and MBLC equally share the cost of the databases upon which school libraries rely so heavily.
We have also seen access to econtent improve dramatically in the last couple of years. MLS, in partnership with the MBLC, library networks, and individual libraries, administers the Commonwealth Ebook Collections. This initiative not only economized the purchase of a large selection of ebooks (over 10,000), but increased competition to a point where more publishers were willing to negotiate and lower prices on the cost of ebooks in general.
MLS is a membership organization, where its members are libraries of all types -- academic, public, school, and special libraries. It does not cost anything to join, but a school library must demonstrate that it has certified librarians on staff, as a condition of membership. Because MLS is a membership organization, this also means that librarians are encouraged to participate on committees. MLS has a variety of committees, including committees for Commonwealth
Ebooks, strategic planning, and more. In fact, a recent email from Greg Pronevitz, Director of MLS, called for nominations for volunteers to sit on committees for purchasing, delivery, cooperatives, and resource sharing.
We, the authors of this article, have sat on a few of these committees and find great satisfaction in talking to librarians across the state, as well as having a deeper understanding and appreciation of the work that goes into developing the resources available to us. Opportunities also exist for school librarians to serve on the MLS Board. It’s a great way to broaden our collective voices, strengthen our impact and to network with librarians who work in a wide range of settings. Cathy Collins is happy to share her experiences of serving on the MLS Board: firstname.lastname@example.org
The MBLC also recruits librarians to sit on committees, including standing committees such as its Public Relations Committee and the Statewide Advisory Council of Libraries (SACL), as well as the ad hoc committees,such as the State Aid Review Committee, and Statewide Electronic Resources Advisory Committee (SERAC), as needed. SERAC members play a critical role in the evaluation process for the procurement of statewide databases which are on a 5-year cycle. In addition, all MLS member library staff are encouraged to participate in surveys to determine subject needs and provide feedback on product content and functionality.
How can you get involved with MLS or the MBLC? Join MLS if you haven’t done so already. Once you are a member, you will also be added to the email listserve and receive announcements of upcoming workshops, book talks, meetings (e.g., the Teen Summit), and more. Pay attention to your emails from both the MLS and the MBLC to learn about opportunities to get involved. To learn more about both these organizations, visit their websites:
MBLC at http://mblc.state.ma.us/ or MLS at http://www.masslibsystem.org/
Alphabet Soup Explained:
MBLC: Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, a Public Sector; State Funded organization: “Supports, improves, and promotes library services throughout the Commonwealth.” Programs created and/or supported include: Talking Book Library, Mass. Center for the Book, Automated Library Networks, MLS, Library for the Commonwealth (via the BPL ecard), and “The Library” (Academic, Public, School, Special)
MLS (MLS): Massachusetts Library System, a Private Sector 501(c)(3) organization -- Funds provided to MLS from the MBLC: “Provides direct supplementary services to libraries”, specifically:
- Advisory support for libraries
- Continuing Education
- Cooperative purchasing
- Mediated IL/Journal article delivery
- Bibliotemps (self-supporting)
MHEC: Mass. Higher Education Consortium: MLS has arranged a buying consortium via MHEC. Contact MHEC to join, and receive deep discounts on library books and supplies. MLS does provide training on how to use the MHEC website for purchasing.
MSLA: Massachusetts School Library Association: An independent organization made up of school library professionals and paraprofessionals, funded by dues-paying members.
SACL: State Advisory Council on Libraries: SACL participates in the annual Program and Budget activities of LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act), reviews and evaluates all applications and proposals in the Direct Grant Program, and makes recommendations to the Board of Library Commissioners for funding. SACL advises the MBLC and its staff on the development and evaluation of the state’s LSTA long range plan. Approximately one-third of the membership is appointed annually by the Bard for three-year terms beginning in October.
Other Related Links:
(briefly discusses first year of 6 regional library systems)
(mentions funding crisis)
(see p. 12, “Regional Consolidation”)
A Strategic Plan For The Future Of Library Services In Massachusetts written in 1997 led to the creation of the 6 multitype regional library systems. See especially the following sections of the Strategic Plan :
- ISSUE 2: The Need for Closer Cooperation Among Diferent Types of Libraries
- ISSUE 3: The Need for a Statewide Structure for Cooperation and Access
- Goal IV: Every Massachusetts academic, public, school, institutional and corporate library meets the basic service needs of its users.
The authors would also like to thank Greg Pronevitz, Director of MLS, and Marlene Heroux, Reference Information Systems Specialist at MBLC, for their assistance and guidance in this article. Please see the accompanying article on Statewide Databases for more details about our resources. Thank you!