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State Library of Massachusetts FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the State Library of Massachusetts

Table of Contents

What are your hours? Are you open on holidays?

The State Library is currently open to State House personnel and state employees Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Massachusetts State House remains closed to the general public until further notice.

  • The State Library Main Reading Room in State House, Room 341 will be open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 
  • The Special Collections Department in State House, Room 55 will remain closed to public access.
  • Advance appointments are encouraged for research questions. Email us at Reference.Department@mass.gov or Special.Collections@mass.gov to let us know how we can help you or to make an appointment.
  • A mask covering the nose and mouth must be worn at all times inside the State Library regardless of vaccination status.
  • While the State House remains closed to the general public, the State Library of Massachusetts staff will continue to provide services remotely to all users. For more information about our remote services and how to contact us, see: Using the State Library's Resources and Collections Remotely.

A list of Massachusetts Legal Holidays can be found on the Secretary of State's Website

What kinds of books does the Library have?

The State Library houses a specialized collection of books and other items that focuses on Massachusetts state and municipal publications and histories, legislative research materials, and other law volumes.  Much of the Library’s efforts in the past decade have been centered on providing electronic access to historical and contemporary state documents and digitizing older Massachusetts-related materials.

What is the difference between the Main Library and Special Collections?

The Special Collections department houses rare and special items, directories, maps and atlases, architectural plans, physical artifacts, photographs, audio and video recordings, and manuscript material collected by the Library since its founding. Treasures include the Bradford Manuscript, a complete copy of Audubon’s Birds of America, and the medal presented to Senator Charles Sumner by the Haitian government.

Are Massachusetts state publications available online?

Yes, many (but not all) state publications are freely available online in the State Library's digital repository. The Library adds digital state publications here daily, including publications that the Library has either scanned from our print holdings or captured from the web.

How can I get a legislative history of a bill or law? Is it something I can do over the phone/email?

Although Massachusetts does not have ready-made legislative histories, the State Library has the resources needed to compile a legislative history. Because of its complex nature, legislative history research must be performed by library patrons on-site rather than via email or over the phone.

The Library can provide a list of outside resources who will do legislative history research for a fee.

Do I have to make an appointment to use the library?

The Main Library in Room 341 State House and the fourth floor balcony in Room 442 State House are open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., no appointment necessary.

The Special Collections Department is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and although no appointment is necessary,  we encourage you to let us know when you will be coming so we can be sure to have a staff member available to help you. (Call 617-727-2595 or Email special.collections@mass.gov)

Can I get an item that you own through my local library?

The State Library participates in interlibrary lending of some of its collections with Massachusetts public libraries and with other libraries through OCLC Worldcat. You can request materials in Massachusetts libraries through Commonwealth Catalog (ComCat) with a valid Massachusetts public library card. Contact your local Massachusetts library for more information or assistance.  However, the State Library does not circulate rare books, local history books, genealogy books, or special formats such as maps, atlases, photographs, or microfilm but you are welcome to come in and use them on-site.

Who can get a library card? Can I access your databases?

State employees are eligible for library cards, which enable them to borrow library materials and access the Library’s databases. State employee remote access requires a library card number and password. If you need a password, please call the Reference Desk at (617) 727-2590 or Email reference.department@mass.gov.

Other visitors can receive cards that will allow them to use public access computers and databases while in the Library. We regret that we are unable to provide remote access to the databases to non-state employees. However, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners offers access to a wide variety of databases to Massachusetts residents. In addition to databases offered by their home public libraries, Massachusetts residents are also eligible for Boston Public Library cards, which allow for access to a large selection of additional databases.

Can I browse the library stacks to find what I need?

The State Library is a closed-stacks library, which means that patrons are not permitted access to the stack areas where the majority of our materials are located. Please ask Library Reference Staff members to assist you in retrieving any materials you may need.

How do I take a tour of the State Library of Massachusetts?

There are a few ways to tour the State Library:

  1.  If you can’t come to the State Library, take our web tour.
  2. Walk-ins- As you enter the library, there is a self-guided tour sheet that has details about the library’s beautiful artwork, architecture and historical materials.
  3. Tours for constituents, schools, librarians and organizations are available. They can be arranged by contacting the reference department at reference.department@mass.gov 

           *Tours need to have a minimum of 5 participants and maximum of 16.

What sort of computer, printer and scanner access does the library offer? Do you have wireless?

The library has several public access computers in Rooms 341 and 442 that provide access to the Internet and the Library’s databases, as well as Microsoft Office. These computers are connected to a printing workstation that allows for black and white printouts for $.20 ($.50 for color). We do not have a public scanner. The Library offers wireless Internet access. 

What is the State Library's DSpace Digital Repository?

Our DSpace digital repository is an online collection of items that is completely free and open to all users. These items include thousands of Massachusetts state government reports, legislative materials, maps, photographs, and other historical or cultural materials that either have been digitized by the State Library or other institutions or were “born digital,” meaning that they were published online originally and not in print. 

Technically, DSpace is the name of the open source software we use for the State Library’s digital repository’s platform. Visit the State Library's DSpace Digital Repository page for more information.

Contact

Phone

Main Library (617) 727-2590

Open M-F 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Special Collections Department (617) 727-2595

Open M-F 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Fax

(617) 727-9730

Address

Main Library
Massachusetts State House
Room 341
Boston, MA 02133
Special Collections Department
Massachusetts State House
Room 55
Boston, MA 02133
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