In this section of the BPL Compass blog, we bring you profiles of community members whose efforts are connected to principles in the strategic plan.
Posted on August 16th, 2012 by Gina Perille in Profiles
Tags: Center of Knowledge
“As soon as I started here, I knew it was my place,” declares Miriam Carrasquillo. That was more than 24 years ago, and Miriam has since served the library in a number of departments, including rare books, music, and now human resources.
Over the years, she has observed a sharp increase in the number of immigrants coming to Boston from other countries. “Some don’t speak much English at the beginning, and they don’t know what programs are available,” she says. “They come to the library as a place to find that information in this country. It’s a place of knowledge. A place to start.”
Another change she has seen taking place is the shift toward the internet. “I’ve seen how people are using computers more than books now,” she says. “Click click is what people are requiring more often, not encyclopedias and yellow pages.”
Miriam is proud that the Boston Public Library is the oldest public library in the nation, and, as a member of the Staff Compass Committee, she is dedicated to honoring that history while ensuring that the library continues moving forward, in step with technology. “Being part of an institution that helps the community—it’s a privilege,” she says.
Posted on August 14th, 2012 by Gina Perille in Profiles
Tags: Center of Knowledge
Established in 1978, the Friends of the Dudley Branch Library—a nonprofit partnership between the Dudley Branch of the Boston Public Library and the local community—promotes an appreciation for the arts, culture, and humanities. Fifteen-year member and now Vice President of the board of directors, Mimi Jones is proud of the events supported by the group.
Her passion for the library is not limited to the Dudley Branch, however. Mimi recognizes the Boston Public Library as one system and has taken an active role in planning for its future, as a member of both the Compass Committee and the Strategic Planning Committee. “I’ve been very pleased with the fact that there’s been tremendous public discourse around the strategic plan,” she says. “The goals and vision of the previous documents like the Neighborhood Services Initiative dovetail nicely with the new, system-wide strategy. It’s a privilege to be at the table to make a contribution and help shape things.”
Ultimately, to Mimi, what’s most important is to make sure the Boston Public Library system remains a window into the world of knowledge. “Beyond books, the Boston Public Library is a place where so much can be acquired, discovered, and learned,” she says.
Posted on August 10th, 2012 by Gina Perille in Profiles
Tags: Special Collections
The George Ticknor Collection of Spanish and Portuguese literature. Shakespeare’s first folio. The first printed dictionary in the West. The John Adams Library. One of the largest collections of anti-slavery manuscripts in the world. These are just a few of the treasures of the Boston Public Library’s Rare Books & Manuscripts Department. And they are in the care of reference librarian Sean Casey.
Much of Sean’s day is spent answering emails or assisting patrons in the reading room. For him, every day brings new discoveries. “We have PhDs and scholars coming here from all over the world and we have people walking in off the street. Anybody can access these collections. It’s amazing.”
While many of these rare books and manuscripts can only be handled at the library, digitization is increasingly making them available online— a phenomenon that is rescuing many precious documents. One such document is the Code Henry, which established the independent government of Haiti in 1812. When the earthquake destroyed Haiti’s national library, the Boston Public Library held the only known surviving copy. It has since been digitized. “With digitization, formerly rare things are now available to the world,” Sean says. “It’s great.”
Posted on August 8th, 2012 by Gina Perille in Profiles
Tags: Special Collections
Even in library school, Chrissy Rissmeyer was more attracted to the cataloging side of library work than the research side. So it was only natural that she would be drawn to digitization—that is, converting printed materials or film into electronic files. “Digital libraries open these materials up to the wider world and make them accessible,” she raves. “It’s part of the future of libraries.”
The Boston Public Library has two digital imaging laboratories, one for books and “anything bound,” as Chrissy describes it, and the other for unbound materials such as posters, maps, postcards, photographs and negatives, manuscripts for rare books, and more. It is with the unbound materials that Chrissy shines as the library’s Digital Projects Metadata Coordinator. (“It’s an evolving title,” she laughs.)
“What I love most about digitizing is that it makes things available to people that they might not come across otherwise,” says Chrissy. For example, photographer Leslie Jones’ humorous depiction of 20th-century Boston has inspired a lively online social engagement that probably would not have occurred in a traditional library setting.
“We have some of the most fun in the building,” Chrissy says. “I love seeing people interacting with these collections and enjoying them. Sometimes it even inspires them to learn more about it.”
Posted on August 6th, 2012 by Gina Perille in Profiles
Tags: Access and Innovation
Michael Colford has many responsibilities at the Boston Public Library, including overseeing the BPL’s role as Library for the Commonwealth, a designation that signifies that the BPL provides services and access to its collections to people across the entire state of Massachusetts. “We have a lot of very rich and deep collections, and access is a very important concern,” he says. “A big part of what libraries do is describe and catalog their materials and make them discoverable.”
For that reason, the library is focused on cataloging and digitizing material in order to make it accessible online. Michael is also taking the next logical step by providing technological equipment and training programs that help to bridge the “digital divide” between the most techno-savvy and those who might not yet know how to use a mouse.
Does that mean that the physical library is becoming obsolete? On the contrary, according to Michael. “The thing I think comes as a surprise to everyone is that people still want to come in to the library and be a part of a community,” he says. “While people are saying everything’s moving online and we’re not going to need the library building any more, that’s definitely not true. People are coming to socialize, to go to programs, to go to events, and to physically interact with the collections. Libraries have a unique role in society. It’ll be very interesting to see how things grow and change.”