Western Mass. state legislators discuss their priorities with Springfield library community (WAMC)

State lawmakers and local librarians gathered in Springfield, Massachusetts on Friday to discuss funding, digital equity and more.

February 26, 2024
View full article at WAMC Northeast Public Radio | By James Paleologopoulos

Advocates for public libraries across western Massachusetts met with lawmakers as the two groups sat down for a special “Library Legislative Breakfast” at Springfield’s Brightwood Branch Library.

There, legislators representing parts of Hampden County and the surrounding area listened to the needs of the region’s libraries – while also presenting their own work on Beacon Hill.

Organizations such as the library sharing network, Central and Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing or “CW MARS,” and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners made their case for increased funding.

For fiscal year 2025, the MBLC’s legislative agenda requests a total of $51.4 million for multiple line items – a year-over-year increase of $4 million.

That includes direct, local aid for public libraries, as well as funding that assists groups such as CW MARS in their own operations, connecting their member libraries with others to allow patrons to reserve and take out books across western and central Massachusetts.

Executive Director Jeanette Lundgren says library users will be able to access the system in a new way in early March.

“We’re rolling out a new online catalogue – this will be a new front-end to the catalogue that will help promote discoverability of both our online and physical content, and provide more opportunities for our libraries to interact and connect with their patrons,” Lundgren said.

According to Lundgren, the over 150 public library systems taking part in CW MARS have access to nine million items in its shared catalogue, including 2.4 million “e-items” such as ebooks and audiobooks, which were at the center of a much-discussed piece of legislation Friday.

Throughout the lineup of guest speakers, both lawmakers and librarians referred to House Bill 3239 — An Act empowering library access to electronic books and audiobooks.

MBLC Commissioner Vicky Biancolo says when it comes to negotiating with publishers, libraries are unable to purchase digital books and audiobooks the same way as consumers, and are instead forced to pay figures that can be at least triple the cost.

In one instance, Biancolo described how an audiobook with a consumer price tag of $15 would end up costing a library $130 for a two-year license.

It’s a costly endeavor for libraries across the commonwealth, especially when the digital editions are in high demand and library waitlists only appear to be getting longer.

“Networks have doubled what they spend on ebooks and audio books and wait times, can be 60-90 days up to six months I’ve heard for some titles,” Biancolo said. “We just can’t keep pace with demand – it just is continuing – this is – never ending.”

The commissioner encouraged the lawmakers in attendance to support the bill, which was filed by Democratic Representative Ruth Baler of Newton. The legislation calls on the state’s consumer protection laws to force publishers to use fairer practices when negotiating with libraries.

Another piece of legislation highlighted included a bill to better protect librarians from an onslaught of book challenges, championed by State Senator Jake Oliveira of Ludlow and State Representative Aaron Saunders of Belchertown.

Libraries across Massachusetts are seeing a steady uptick in book challenges, in addition to thousands of complaints, which Oliveira says often target communities of color and those who identify as LGBTQ+.

“We need to push back against that – that’s why we need your help – to get these bills over the finish line,” the senator said as the group of book lenders before him broke out in applause.

Among other functions, the bill would require libraries to adopt the American Library Association’s “Library Bill of Rights” to be eligible for state funding.

The Bill of Rights holds that “materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.” It would also establish a “Book Access Fund” for localities challenging book bans.

A similar piece of legislation geared toward public school libraries was filed by Sen. Julian Cyr of Truro and Rep. John Moran of Boston.

Also highlighted at the meeting was funding for the “Massachusetts Center for the Book,” which offers family literacy programming in gateway cities.

Speaking with WAMC, Springfield State Senator Adam Gomez emphasized the importance of events such as Friday’s, adding it’s vital to listen to librarians, who are deeply embedded in their communities.

“Keep our ears open, make sure that we are listening to the advocates that are actually doing the work when it comes to our communities, especially these free spaces, our branches and libraries which are community centers and also, I would say, a place where imagination is created,” Gomez said.

More information on the MBLC’s legislative agenda can be found here.

Summer Reading Club – Thank you!

Thank you for participating in our 2023 Discover Your Summer Reading Challenge. Check out a list of our winners!

We challenged you to read 20 minutes a day from June 20-August 26, and whether you made time to read for one day or every day, it’s an accomplishment worth celebrating!

Every participant who completed the challenge was entered into a drawing for their age group. Here are this year’s winners:

Young Children

Mike G., Nathanael W., and Syracuse P. each won an Elmo book and plush toy.


Marika B., Julian W., and Harper M. each won a LEGO set.


Serenity M., Jacob H., and Enya E. each won a gift card.


Jim W., Eileen M., and Ziona Y each won a gift card for groceries.

Congratulations to our winners, and thank you all for participating!

Mayor Sarno Recognizes our Springfield City Libraries During National Library Week

April 24th marks National Library Workers Day. Thank you to all our dedicated Springfield Library workers for your tremendous service.

April 25, 2023:

Happy Library Workers Day!

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and the City of Springfield are proud to join with Library Director Molly Fogarty, Deputy Director Jean Canosa Albano and our Springfield City Library team to celebrate National Library Week this year from April 23 – 29, 2023. Make sure to visit your library this week, or even check out a new library you’ve never been to. Find all Springfield library locations and hours here: Locations and Hours – Springfield City Library (springfieldlibrary.org)

There is a lot to celebrate when it comes to our libraries which are a hub for free access to information and technology, social and civic engagement, and support of personal enrichment, well-being, and lifelong learning. Today, April 24th, marks National Library Workers Day. Thank you to all our dedicated Springfield Library workers for your tremendous service. We can all show gratitude to a Springfield City Library worker who “shines” by nominating a stellar library worker for the American Library Association’s Galaxy of Stars by completing a brief nomination form at  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SubmitAStarforNLWD

Mayor Sarno states, “Our libraries and library employees are truly a wonderful and valuable resource for our community. From the leadership with Director Molly Fogarty and Deputy Director Jean Canosa Albano to each and every member of our library staff, we are extremely proud and grateful for our library system across the city and the important role they play in our community. This week especially, let us all take a moment to recognize how important our libraries and library employees are to our Springfield. They have so much to offer – remember, it’s all yours, just ask!”

Read more at the City website.

Springfield City Library collecting pajamas for Boston Bruins drive (WWLP)

The Springfield City Library has partnered with the Boston Bruins to take part in the Bruins PJ drive that benefits children. The drive runs through March 15 at all nine library locations in the city.

Check out the story and video from WWLP

March 1, 2023:

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP)– The Springfield City Library has partners with the Boston Bruins to take part in the Bruins PJ drive that benefits children through the Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) Wonderfund and Cradles to Crayons.

The PJ drive runs through March 15 at all nine library locations in the city. They are looking for new pairs of pajamas for babies, children and teenagers.

“It’s hard to imagine that so many kids and teens don’t know the comforting feeling of putting on PJs before settling down to sleep. We’re happy to be part of an effort to change that” said Jean Canosa Albano, Assistant Director of the Library.

The goal of the PJ drive is to collect 5,000 pairs of new pajamas. DCF is estimated to be working with agency that assist more than 50,000 babies, children and teenagers.

The Bruins PJ drive began during the 2007-08 hockey season with Forward P.J. Axelsson and his wife Siw as a way to give back to the community. Since 2014, libraries across the state have joined in on the effort and have collected over 53,000 pairs of pajamas since.

For more information, visit Bruins PJ Drive website.

‘Anthony’s Book Club’ to support literacy in Springfield (WWLP)

Join Thunderbirds forward Anthony Angello for ‘Anthony’s Book Club’, created in partnership with the Springfield City Library and the T-Birds Foundation.

Check out the story from WWLP

January 10, 2023:

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP)– A new effort to promote reading and literacy in Springfield is underway thanks to a member of the Springfield Thunderbirds hockey team.

‘Anthony’s Book Club’, named for Thunderbirds forward Anthony Angello, was created in partnership with the Springfield City Library and the T-Birds Foundation.

Angello will be visiting five different branches of the Springfield City Library in January and February for live story time readings, activities, and meet-and-greet sessions with young T-Birds fans. He will be joined by other team members and mascot Boomer. The Foundation will also be contributing to Anthony’s Book Club with donations of books and supplies during their visits.

“Just like the Springfield City Library, the Springfield Thunderbirds are part of our community,” said Jean Canosa Albano, Assistant Director for Public Services at the Springfield City Library. “When I learned about Anthony Angello’s commitment to reading and literacy through his ABC Anthony’s Book Club, I knew it was a great match for the Library. Reading aloud not only provides a foundation for success, it’s fun! We can’t wait to welcome Anthony, Boomer, and local families to the Library.”

“We are proud to support Anthony’s passion for children’s literacy through the ABC program,” said Thunderbirds President Nathan Costa. “Any cause close to a player’s heart makes it all the more meaningful to us as an organization. The T-Birds Foundation will be directly involved from the onset of the program to ensure that the Springfield City Library has ample resources for all children who visit. It is our hope that the libraries are packed with enthusiastic young readers thanks to Anthony’s encouragement and example.”

Tentative dates and locations for Anthony’s Book Club are as follows:

For more information about Anthony’s Book Club and other Thunderbirds community programming go to the team’s website.

Springfield Library offers online series for adult job seekers (WWLP)

This series, running from January to June, is to help support older adults that are looking for a new job or a new career direction. Anyone that is age 50 or older can do these free biweekly skill-building and networking group meetings on Zoom.

Check out the story from WWLP

January 3, 2023:

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Springfield City Library offers an online 50+ Job Seekers Networking Group series. This series is to help support older adults that are looking for a new job or a new career direction, according to a news release from the Springfield City Library.

Anyone that is age 50 or older can do these free biweekly skill-building and networking group meetings on Zoom. The series is from January through June, and a new topic will be discussed at each meeting. The 1st and 3rd Wednesdays are from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The 2nd and 4th Wednesdays are from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Jinnie Trabulsi, the reference librarian, says, “We are thrilled to offer this valuable opportunity to residents of Springfield and beyond! Job search information for older adults is a specialized area, and Debbi Hope, the professional coach, is a fantastic expert.”

Library members can check out a Wi-Fi hotspot and a Chromebook from Library if they don’t have a computer, or they do the online networking sessions using the Zoom app on a smartphone. To register, go to their website to get the Zoom links.

Visit our webpage for the 50+ Job Seekers Networking Group to find out more and register!

Springfield City Library collecting mittens, hats and scarves (Masslive.com)

New or handmade items are preferred. Items of all sizes are needed; more adult-sized items are needed at most locations. The Springfield Library system has been collecting since Dec. 1 and will continue through Dec 31.

12/22/2022 – SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield City Library is circulating a special way to help its neighbors this winter: Patrons are donating mittens, hats, scarves and gloves to be distributed to neighborhood charities.

The “mitten trees” in all library branches give residents “the opportunity to see the Springfield City Library as a good neighbor, one that clearly cares about the quality of life of folks in our community,” said Diane N. Houle, adult and youth information services manager and manager of the Mason Square Branch Library. “The library can be a vehicle of change in the city, and by collecting winter accessories, it gives everyone involved a sense of community. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Last year, the libraries collected more than 250 items; the hope is to reach at least 400 this year.

“Items are usually donated to neighborhood charities so that branch libraries can impact the quality of life in their neighborhoods,” Houle said.

For example, goods collected in Indian Orchard may go to the Survival Center. Items collected in Brightwood may go to Grey House. Each library has the opportunity to decide where the items may go.

New or handmade items are preferred.

Items of all sizes are needed; more adult-sized items are needed at most locations.

The Springfield Library system has been collecting mittens, gloves, hats and scarves since Dec. 1 and will continue the collection through Dec 31.

The libraries have undertaken the mitten tree program for nearly 30 years.

“Some families make an annual donation and come to the library early in December to drop the hats and mittens off and take a photo,” Houle said. “Even the smallest donation is helpful. It’s an easy way to give back to the community.”

One person in the Mason Square knitting group on Friday afternoons makes sure that the tree is well stocked. “She will spend extra time making hats so that we have plenty of items to give to our charity,” Houle said. “Receiving organizations are always grateful. It’s always nice to have these kinds of items available for folks who need them.”

For more information on the Mitten Tree project, call 413-263-6828, ext. 293.

Read more at Masslive.com.

Springfield City Library gets almost $500,000 grant for materials, programs and facilities (Masslive.com)

All nine branches of the Springfield City Library will benefit from the state aid grant.

12/16/2022 – SPRINGFIELD — Molly Fogarty, director of the city library, said the city’s Library Department intends to use the nearly $500,000 grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners on programming, library items, facility upgrades, professional development, salary and wages.

“We’ll make sure that money is used in the best possible way to serve our residents in Springfield,” Fogarty said.

The city’s Library Department has already accepted the grant and is requesting authorization from the City Council during its Monday evening meeting to expend the grant funds.

City Councilor Jesse Lederman said that anytime funds are brought into the city, the council has to approve the acceptance of the grant, which is fairly routine for the council. If all is in order, it will be a “routine passage,” he said.

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners awarded the library a $499,059 State Aid to Public Libraries grant at its Dec. 1 meeting. The first payment is in the amount of $250,683.35 and if approved by the City Council, the library will receive the remainder of the grant in the spring of 2023.

All nine branches of the Springfield City Library will benefit from the state aid grant.

Read more at Masslive.com.

Top 10 most wanted Springfield high school yearbooks for library to digitize (WWLP)

The library is trying to digitize as many Springfield high school yearbooks as we can. We have already received hundreds of yearbooks, but we are still missing several volumes.

Check out the story and photos from WWLP

November 21, 2022:

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) –The Springfield City Library recently requested high school yearbooks from the public to digitize its history and is still missing several volumes.

High school yearbooks are the second most requested local history item at the city’s public libraries. So the library is trying to digitize as many Springfield high school yearbooks as they can. They have already received hundreds of yearbooks, photos, patches, programs, and other memorabilia but are requesting the following top 10 most wanted yearbooks:

  • Classical: 1965, 1971, 1980
  • Tech: 1950, 1955
  • Commerce: 1959, 1960
  • Putnam: 1951, 1952, 1957

You can donate yearbooks at any of the nine library locations. All Springfield high school yearbooks are welcome, public, private, or charter. They will be sent to an organization, Digital Commonwealth, to be scanned, and put on the internet.

“Yearbooks are the second most requested local history item, after newspaper articles,” says Elizabeth McKinstry, a reference librarian who’s leading the yearbook digitization project. “It’s so disappointing when we don’t have the yearbook people seek. But we love to see faces light up when someone revisits a high school memory or the picture of a loved one. We want to give that experience to anyone looking for an old yearbook, whether here in Springfield, or anywhere in the world, via the internet.”

Frequently Asked Questions according to the Springfield City Library:

Q. Why yearbooks?

A. After newspaper articles, yearbooks are the most common local history reference request we get. We have a very small, patchy collection at present, and we would love to have a complete, accessible collection, that can be viewed at Central Library during all open hours!

Q. Can you just borrow my yearbook, scan it, and give it back to me after you’re done with it?

A. Not at this time. Getting these yearbooks cataloged, organized, and sent off for digitization will take close to a year, and we’re worried we might have trouble finding you again. Also, we want people to be able to come to the library and see yearbooks in person. But if you want to talk to us further about your yearbook, you can reach us using the contact information above, and someone from the yearbook team will reply!

Q. What if you get a lot of duplicates?

A. We’ll keep them! We’ll send the best one off to be digitized, but we will not throw out any yearbook that’s not already extremely damaged. It’s common for libraries to keep multiple copies of items that are hard to replace.

Q. How soon will all the yearbooks be online?

A. We hope within 12 months. This will depend on many factors not in our control, though, like the wait list at Digital Commonwealth, how quickly donations come in, and how complete our collection becomes.

Q. Are you considering digitizing other Springfield documents?

A. Yes! Some of the older City Directories were digitized several years ago, and we hope to do more after the yearbook project. But yearbooks are by far the most popular item people would like to see online.

WNEU setting up free legal kiosks to help economically disadvantaged in Springfield (Western Mass News)

Kiosks are about to go up all around Springfield – including five city libraries – to offer legal help to anyone who needs it.

October 12, 2022 – SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) — Kiosks are about to go up all around Springfield to offer legal help to anyone who needs it and Western New England University’s Center for Social Justice is behind the idea.

For the center, it is a way to help people who are economically and technologically disadvantaged when it comes to getting answers to legal questions. Director Ariel Clemmer told Western Mass News this kind of computer station will allow a “greater access to justice.”

“Anyone who doesn’t have the necessary technology devices or Wifi or broadband can come to one of these free kiosk locations and get connected to free legal resources,” Clemmer said.

That’s not all. The kiosks also allow users to get more information on legal questions or cases, as well as use Zoom to connect with their attorneys or the court system. This project is the second phase of the Consumer Debt Initiative, which was created in 2018 to help those in the Springfield area who were facing credit card issues and consumer debt. The Legal Kiosk Project was two years in the making and was fully funded by the MassMutual Foundation. Board member and Western New England alum Dorothy Varon said another goal of the project is to help close a digital divide.

“During COVID, for example, when all the courts were going virtual, if you didn’t have access to broadband and you couldn’t be virtually connected, you were really almost unable to participate in court proceeding that you were involved with,” Varon noted.

The kiosks will be found at ten locations, including one at the Western New England University School of Law library. Others sites include the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, the New North Citizens Council, the United Way of Pioneer Valley, and Open Pantry Community Services. The equipment will also be found in five city libraries including Brightwood, Forest Park, Indian Orchard, Library Express at Pine Point, and Mason Square.

. . .

The Western New England University Center for Social Justice will hold a launch event for the kiosks on Monday, October 17 at Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Services in Springfield from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The public will then be able to use the devices the following day.

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