State Library of Massachusetts FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the State Library

What do you want to know?

What are your hours?  Are you open on holidays? 

The State Library is open from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  It is closed on Massachusetts Legal Holidays. The library is open to all State House employees or visitors.

 

What kinds of books does the Library have? What is the difference between the Main Library and the Special Collections department?

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 contemporary state publications and digitizing older Massachusetts-related materials.

The Special Collections department houses rare and special items, directories, maps and atlases, architectural plans, physical artifacts, photographs, 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 in the State Library’s online 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 or 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 onsite rather than via email or over the phone. The Library can  provide a list of firms who will do legislative history research for a fee.


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

The Main Library and the fourth floor balcony 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. (Phone: 617-727-2595, or email special.collections@mass.gov)


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

Yes, many items from the State Library’s collections may be requested through your local library’s interlibrary loan department.  However, the State Library does not circulate rare books, local history books, genealogy books, or special formats such as maps, atlases, photographs, or microfilm.


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.  Our librarians are more than happy to retrieve any materials needed for research or other purposes.


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

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 currently have a public scanner available. The Library offers wireless Internet access. 

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