Boston Public Library
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The BPL Compass

Category Archives: Collections

New work of art

Posted on November 5th, 2014 by Michael Colford in Collections
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Boston Public Library recently added a new work of art to its collection: a bronze bust of Boston-born author Edgar Allan Poe. The bust was a gift donated to the library by sculptor Bryan Moore and was unveiled to the public at a well-attended event in the Abbey Room on October 30 (pictured below). As planned, the bust will be temporarily stored in advance of being displayed in the renovated Johnson building’s world-class fiction section. The Poe bust will appear alongside busts of other authors such as Mark Twain, Henry James, and others.


Central Library Renovation: Project Milestones

Posted on September 25th, 2014 by David Leonard in Collections, Johnson Building Study, Library Services, Major Projects
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As the renovation of the Central Library in Copley Square continues, there are several project milestones ahead. The first phase of the renovation is predominantly concentrated on the interior of the second floor of the Johnson building, the portion of the Central Library that faces Boylston Street. The second phase, which begins in early October, involves the Johnson building’s lower level, first floor, mezzanine, and exterior. The transition from phase 1 to phase 2 may not be immediately apparent because some phase 1 work will continue alongside phase 2 work. That overlap is by design in order to achieve some cost savings by not having to come to a full stop and then re-mobilize the project.

There are several significant milestones ahead in the renovation project as a whole. They include:

During October 2014

  • Move of teen services, children’s services, borrower services, and nonfiction collections to the McKim building
  • Installation of a temporary accessible ramp and door system for the McKim building, the portion of the Central Library that faces Dartmouth Street.
  • Installation of a materials return — also commonly referred to as a book drop – in front of the McKim building.

Mid-November 2014

  • Closure of the Johnson building entrance.

These are the current target date ranges. Continuing updates will be available via this blog and within the Central Library itself.

Renovation digital display

Just inside the entrance of the Johnson building is a digital display with information about service and collection locations as well as renderings of the new spaces currently under construction on the second floor.


Central Library Renovation: Moves

Posted on August 21st, 2014 by Gina Perille in Collections, Johnson Building Study, Library Services, Major Projects
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The services of the Kirstein Business Library are now being offered from the south end of Bates Hall, which is on the second floor of the McKim building. 


To find Bates Hall: Enter on Dartmouth Street and take the stairs or the elevator to the second floor. 

More Collections Questions Answered

Posted on August 18th, 2014 by Gina Perille in Collections
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Cover of BPL's strategic planAdding new books to a library’s collection and removing others is standard operating procedure for libraries around the world. This is an important and essential service that librarians offer to the communities they serve every day. The Boston Public Library system, on average, adds 11,000 new items to its circulating collection every month. That’s 132,000 new items each year that cardholders can check out and take home. There is not infinite shelf space in our locations; continuous evaluation of what is on the shelves is required. Again, this is a core piece of what librarians do, and Boston Public Library stands behind our professionally trained staff and their ability to perform this sort of evaluation.

Be sure to also read Collections Questions Answered, the first installment in this ongoing conversation.

What is taking place this year — and what seems to be the subject of wide interest and, unfortunately, wide misinformation –  is that each of our 24 neighborhood branches is getting a list of records for books that have not circulated in 3, 4, or 5 years, depending on the number of shelves the branch has. Colleagues are being asked: does this record have a corresponding book on your shelves? Is it there? Is it damaged? Is there more than one copy? If it is a travel book or computer software book or test prep book, for example, do you have a 2008 version alongside the 2014 version? If yes, please remove the 2008 version. Neighborhood librarians are being asked to evaluate their shelves. This is essential and ongoing librarian work. Even if a book is on the list to be evaluated and has not circulated in years, each librarian can say, because they know their local users best, that it should stay in the building.

Throughout all of this, there are also two very important things to keep in mind:

  1. Each location in the Boston Public Library system shares its circulating materials with every other location. A library cardholder can request a book to be delivered to any branch of their choosing, whether it is near home or work.
  2. The records being evaluated across the system are limited only to “take-home” or “circulating” books, CDs, and DVDs. These are but a fraction of Boston Public Library’s deep, rich, and historic holdings and do not even take into account our digital library of e-books, digital magazines, and streaming content. In all, the library has upwards of 23 million items in its collections: maps, photographs, manuscripts, music scores, paintings, artifacts, sculptures, and much more.

The ongoing process of adding new circulating items and pulling out others is highlighted in Boston Public Library’s strategic plan, the BPL Compass, which was built on enormous community input in a multi-phase process from 2009 to 2011. We heard from the community, our staff, and even scholars that we needed to assess our collections. Under one of the eight community-identified principles for excellence in the plan, here’s what appears under Center of Knowledge: “Assess current circulating collections and develop plan for maximizing the use of existing collections through weeding and collection development.” That’s precisely the kind of work our teams do each day.

As always, we welcome questions, suggestions, and comments — that can be via this blog, via social media, via email, via surveys, across the desks at any of our locations, or another of the many ways we connect with our users each day.

Be sure to also read Collections Questions Answered, the first installment in this ongoing conversation.

Collections Questions Answered

Posted on August 8th, 2014 by Gina Perille in Collections
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IMG_0899The library receives questions from time to time about how it manages its collections. Sometimes people say the shelves are too tall, devoid of book covers facing out, and otherwise hard to browse. Other comments center on wanting the library to keep every book it has ever owned for all time. We welcome this discussion. Both types of questions offer an opportunity for us to share some of the “science” that’s in library science.

Boston Public Library adds 11,000 books, CDs, and DVDs to its circulating collection each month. This is an average monthly figure yielding approximately 132,000 new items available for borrowing each calendar year. And those figures do not even take into account our digital library of e-books, digital magazines, and streaming content. Making new materials available is a part of a library’s everyday operations. Many of the new titles Boston Public Library purchases are selected in direct response to user requests. These requests are received through the library’s popular “Suggest a Purchase” web page as well as through conversations with library staff members.

Be sure to read More Collections Questions Answered, the second installment in this ongoing conversation.

Alongside the continuous adding of new materials, libraries also regularly evaluate which materials should be removed from the open shelves. There are many reasons an item might qualify for this, including having out-of-date information; being worn, torn, or damaged; no longer responding to readers’ needs or interests or being part of large group of duplicates. In Boston, with so many new items flowing through the system each year, collection management is an everyday, year-round service that librarians provide.

If you are an active user of the library, you know that we went through a major technology upgrade for what’s known in the library profession as an integrated library system or ILS. That new system went into place at the end of 2012 (read about it here). One of the many benefits of this new system is that it has made it possible for the library to more accurately reflect in our catalog what is on the shelves and available to borrow. Part of the work we’re doing now in all our locations is making sure that what our databases says we have is, in fact, there. And if it is not, we are removing the record from our files. In many cases, the record outlasts the physical item, as is the case in the 180,000 records — not volumes or actual books —  we are analyzing . By the end of the year, we hope to have a much more accurate listing of our circulating items.

When we do remove books from circulation, they are first offered to local library friends groups for their book sales. If you have enjoyed a sale in Copley Square hosted by the City-Wide Friends or one at a neighborhood branch, you have seen this process in action. Next, the books are sent to one of the library’s partners-in-residence, the Internet Archive, a nonprofit library whose mission is to digitize all published information for storage and digitization. Books that the Internet Archive does not select are then sent through a third-party company to a variety of retail outlets to be sold. Proceeds from these sales are returned to Boston Public Library’s collections budget and used for library collections. Any books not sold or in poor condition at the end of this process are recycled.

Each location in the Boston Public Library system shares its circulating materials with every other location. A library cardholder can request a book to be delivered to any branch of their choosing, whether it is near home or work. And beyond books on the shelves, all of the library’s collections — ranging from databases to vintage photos to manuscripts — are available to all, as are thousands of free author talks, story times, exhibitions, classes, concerts, and much more. Libraries are community gathering places, places of lifelong learning, discovery, and fun.

To learn even more about how the library manages its collections, download this PDF version of our collection development policy.