State Library's Reference Department FAQ

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions received by the State Library's Reference Department.

Table of Contents

Is the State Library of Massachusetts the governing body of all public libraries in Massachusetts?

No, however the history of how Massachusetts library authorities came to be organized is complicated. Library authorities can vary greatly from state to state and Massachusetts is no exception. You can read our blog post to learn more about Massachusetts library agencies or watch this brief video below.

Can you tell me about the history of the State Library of Massachusetts?

While the State Library of Massachusetts was established by the General Court in 1826 with a collection of maps, statute books, and government documents, the library's collections began unofficially in 1811 when a documents exchange program with other states was begun, initiating a flow of documents that would form the basis of the new library. Read more about this exchange program in our blog post.

For a more in-depth visual look at the history of the State Library, check out our online exhibit on Flickr or our introductory video below. 

How can I access the State Library's online catalog and databases?

Where can I start to learn more about past and current legislators in Massachusetts?

Our State Library Resources on Past and Current Massachusetts Political Figures page is full of helpful information. You can also visit the State Library in person to use our in-house collections for your research or search our online catalog

How can I learn more about the history of African American legislators in Massachusetts?

What law and legal resources does the State Library offer?

Our Massachusetts Law Resources in the State Library page details the law and legal resources that the State Library has online and in print.

If you would like a more in-depth look at what the State Library has to offer regarding online legal and government resources, you are welcome to view our recorded webinar below on the "State Library's Online Legislative & Government Resources in a Nutshell."

What is the difference between Bills, Acts, MGL, and the CMR?

House and Senate Bills, Acts and Resolves, Massachusetts General Laws, and Code of Massachusetts Regulations: this short tutorial video below will help you understand these terms and begin your research.

How do I access Massachusetts Acts and Resolves online?

You can learn about the Acts and Resolves and how to access them online by watching this short tutorial video below.

How do I do a legislative history?

How do I do legislative research using the House and Senate Journals?

The brief and informative tutorial below will help guide you through the process of understanding and using the House and Senate Journals for legislative research.

What is the Code of Massachusetts Regulations ("CMR") and how do I conduct regulatory research?

The Code of Massachusetts Regulations ("CMR") contains a complete set of regulations promulgated by Massachusetts state agencies.

You can access an overview of the CMR and how to use this resource by going to our Researching the Massachusetts Regulations page or by viewing the brief tutorial below.

What is the Public Document Series and how can I research it?

The Public Document Series is a series of annual reports published by different historical and contemporary Massachusetts state government agencies, departments, boards, and commissions. This series was created by Chapter 40 of the Acts and Resolves of 1857, which tasked the Secretary of State with printing “all annual reports of public officers, boards or institutions,” and these documents would be “styled the ‘Public’ series of documents and shall be numbered separately from the ‘Senate’ and ‘House’ series.”

You can learn more about the Public Document Series by viewing our Researching the Massachusetts Public Document Series page.

How do I research the history of amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution?

Our Researching the History of Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution page will help you with more advanced research into this vital part of Massachusetts history.

You can also learn more about the Massachusetts Constitution by reading this blog post.

How do I begin to research Massachusetts Corporations?

You can begin to learn about this topic by reading our blog post and view our Researching Massachusetts Corporations page to download an interactive timeline that visualizes how filings were submitted over time and where they might be found in order to locate older and newer articles of organization and other types of corporate filings. 

How do I find video recordings of government agency and legislative proceedings?

If you are trying to track down video recordings of government agency and legislative proceedings, such as House and Senate floor debates, public hearings, caucus events, agency committee meetings, briefings, interviews of state officials and more, this page will help you: Video Resources to Assist with Massachusetts State Government and Legislative Research.

Where can I find information on Massachusetts soldiers and sailors?

Our page on Researching Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors will get you started. 

What is the Massachusetts budget process and how can I find older budgets?

Check out our page on the Massachusetts Budget Process.

Contact   for State Library's Reference Department FAQ


Open M-F 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Open M-F 9 a.m.–5 p.m. *Advance appointments are strongly recommended


(617) 727-9730


Main Library
Massachusetts State House, 24 Beacon Street, Room 341, Boston, MA 02133
Special Collections Department
Massachusetts State House, 24 Beacon Street, Room 55, Boston, MA 02133

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