The State Library of Massachusetts supports the research and information needs of government, libraries, and people through innovative services and access to a comprehensive repository of state documents and other historical items.
History of the State Library
The State Library’s origins date back to 1811 with the establishment of a program to exchange statutes with other states. The Library was formally established by the General Court in 1826 to hold these documents and other materials that had accumulated in offices throughout the State House. State Land Agent John W. Coffin was given the additional responsibilities of State Librarian, and the Library’s collection was housed in the Land Agent’s office. The exchange program was expanded in 1844 to include judicial decisions and other significant state documents, and the documents acquired through this program formed the core of the early collections of the State Library and is one of the largest collections of state publications in existence.
During the mid-19th century, the Library evolved into a comprehensive research library to support the work of the legislature, governor’s office, and other public officials. In addition to legal and public document holdings, the Library collected materials on a wide range of research topics, including political, historical, statistical, economic and scientific works. By this time, the Library’s collection had outgrown its original space and was moved to a larger, dedicated library space when a State House addition was completed in 1856. Also during this time, the Library came under the direction of the Secretary of the Board of Education in 1849.
Throughout the later part of the 19th century and early 20th century, the Library’s collections and operations continued to grow. In 1893, the Library became its own department directly under the Governor. The Library moved to its current location in 1895 and added an annex for additional stack space in the 1920s. This annex would become the Library’s Special Collections Department in the 1970s, where rare and special items such as maps, photographs, atlases, and manuscript materials are now located. These include treasures such as the Bradford Manuscript and the medal presented to Senator Charles Sumner by the Haitian government.
In recent decades, the Library’s collecting focus has narrowed, with an emphasis now on disseminating information more quickly and easily. Although the Library still has an extensive historic collection of government documents from throughout the country and an older general research collection, the Library now focuses on collecting material specifically about Massachusetts, particularly state and municipal publications and histories. In the past decade, much of the Library’s efforts have been centered on providing electronic access to these materials by both capturing contemporary state publications and digitizing older Massachusetts-related materials.
To continue to help our patrons have a successful library experience by promoting excellence in information access and quality library services and resources.
|John W. Coffin (in his role as State Land Agent)|
|1849-1855||Barnas Sears (in his role as Secretary of the Board of Education)|
|1855-1861||George S. Boutwell, ex officio (in his role as Secretary of the Board of Education)||Samuel C. Jackson, Acting Librarian (1858-1861)|
|1861-1877||Joseph White, ex officio (in his role as Secretary of the Board of Education)||
Samuel C. Jackson, Acting Librarian
|1877-1893||John W. Dickinson, ex officio (in his role as Secretary of the Board of Education)||
Oliver Warner, Acting Librarian (1877-1879)
Caleb B. Tillinghast, Acting Librarian (1879-1893)
|1893-1909||Caleb Benjamin Tillinghast|
|1909-1917||Charles F. D. Belden|
|1917||Foster W. Stearns||Mrs. Annie Hopkins, Acting Librarian (Sept 15 to Dec 1, 1917)|
|1960-1972||I. Albert Matkov|
|1973-1980||A. Hunter Rineer, Jr.|
|1980-1982||James H. Fish|
|1997-2007||Stephen A. Fulchino|
Elvernoy H. Johnson
|2022-||Stacy R. DeBole|
Contact for Mission Statement, History, and Vision of the State Library
Open M-F 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Open M-F 9 a.m.–5 p.m. *Advance appointments are strongly recommended