Boston Public Library
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The BPL Compass

Posts Tagged ‘Center of Knowledge’

Central Library Renovation: Reference & Research

Posted on March 17th, 2014 by in Johnson Building Study, Library Services, Major Projects

Let us help you, your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues with research questions and projects, information-gathering for work or for play, or with that trivia question that’s been driving you mad. Our brand new Research Desk on the renovated second floor of the Johnson Building will be open and modern in style, a welcoming spot where you can work with Library staff on the topics that interest you most. The area was designed to meet the needs of the researcher who may need a table on which to spread out and delve into books and materials, or a place to get help using the BPL’s dozens of online resources to hunt for jobs, scholarly journals, e-books, historical newspapers, genealogy, car repair videos, small business tips, or language learning programs. With brightly colored carpeting, textured ceiling, flexible study tables and seating, the Research area will be easy to spot from the top of the stairs near the 2nd floor elevators, or from the path into the Johnson Building from McKim. The reference collection and Research Desk will also share a serendipitous proximity to the Teen space that will make homework and project help even more convenient for teens and their families.


Life as a Service Hub for the Digital Public Library of America

Posted on March 12th, 2014 by admin in Collections, Library Services, Strategic Plan, Technology

by Tom Blake

With millions upon millions of items to potentially digitize at the BPL, you would think we would have enough on our plates. But, in our role as a Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) Service Hub, we have taken on the digitization of collections across the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Any library, archives, museum, historical society, or other cultural heritage institution in the state is eligible for this service. We have already been engaged by over 150 different institutions seeking our help get their collections digitized and made available online.

Although it might seem strange or even imprudent to take on such a task in a day when resources can be stretched thin, we believe that extending our state-of-the-art digitization services beyond our walls significantly increases the value of our own collections.

06_01_002590.LARGEThe works of Lowell Mason are a perfect example. Boston Public Library’s music department holds significant materials by this turn of the century composer and teacher, and these materials are critical in understanding the history of public music education. The Lowell Mason Foundation, a small nonprofit organization based in Medfield, requested our services to have complementary items digitized. Once digitization is complete, these items will become unified, virtually, with the holdings of the BPL via Digital Commonwealth and the DPLA. As our materials are connected to these other resources, we will have created a more comprehensive online resource for researchers who otherwise would have had to travel to multiple locations. This ability to enable a high level of discoverability for small, local collections bolsters our position as a leader and an innovator for library services. This has been our reputation since our founding and a source of pride for Boston ever since.

BPL’s Consolidated Archival Storage Facility

Posted on January 10th, 2013 by Mary Frances O'Brien in Library Services, Major Projects, Strategic Plan

A key to meeting the library’s Compass principles that focus on Special Collections and the BPL as a Center of Knowledge is ensuring that the library’s unique and valuable collections are safe and accessible. Although space in Central Library totals almost a million square feet, it is still not large enough to hold the extensive collections that the library has gathered through its history.

Since the 1940s, the library has used a number of buildings to serve as storage facilities, but now we are entering the final phase of a long term project to consolidate our offsite storage space in the City of Boston Archival Center, located at 201 Rivermoor Street in West Roxbury. When completed, much of the library’s special research collection will be stored in a secure climate controlled state-of-the-art facility that will enhance the efficient storage and retrieval of books, journals, newspapers, maps, films, and archival materials. The facility is based on a high-density shelving plan and is designed around the “Harvard model” in which materials are shelved according to size. Barcodes are assigned to match each item with a specific location on a shelf. Requested materials will be retrieved by staff and delivered to the Central Library or, for some titles, to a branch location. Occasionally, if a large collection is requested, users will be welcomed to the spacious reading room which is shared with the City of Boston Archives.

For those interested in local history, the facility will be most convenient as they pursue their research into the history and culture of Boston.

Next Roundtable: Monday, October 1

Posted on September 4th, 2012 by Gina Perille in Library Services, Strategic Plan

The next Compass Roundtable will take place on Monday, October 1, at 6 p.m. at the Honan-Allston Branch.

On October 1, join in a discussion about the Center of Knowledge principle with Chief of Collections Strategy Laura Irmscher and Manager of Reference & Instruction Services Gianna Gifford.

The Center of Knowledge principle states: The BPL is a center of knowledge that serves researchers, lifelong learners, and the intellectually curious through its incomparable collections, digital resources, and access to other scholarly networks.

The planned outcomes under the Center of Knowledge principle are:

  1. Develop community-responsive and neighborhood-reflective circulating collections.
  2. Develop and support a public training program that meets the needs of a wide range of communities.
  3. Support the research, scholastic, and literacy needs of the City and Commonwealth.

Download the PDF version of the October 1 Compass Roundtable flyer.

If you are not able to joins us in person in October, you are always welcome to leave a comment on this blog or send an email to with your ideas. There are three more roundtables to come:

  • November 2012: Special Collections. The BPL is committed to the ongoing development and preservation of its distinctive special collections, which provide citizens from all walks of life with access to their common cultural heritage.
  • January 2013: Community Gathering. The BPL exists to serve and sustain communities that foster discovery, reading, thinking, conversing, teaching, and learning, in accessible, sustainable, and welcoming facilities throughout the City, as well as with an engaging online presence.
  • March 2013: User-Centered Institution. The BPL is a user-centered institution with services that anticipate and respond to neighborhood interests and the changing demographics of the City and Commonwealth.

Specific dates, times, and locations will be published for the remaining three roundtables as soon as they are available.

Profiles – James Carroll, Writer; Former Trustee, Boston Public Library; Chair, BPL Compass Committee

Posted on August 22nd, 2012 by Gina Perille in Profiles

“I love the library and had done a lot of work there as a researcher and writer, going back to when I first came to Boston in 1969,” says James Carroll. “It was such a vital center of civic life and intellectual life for me already, and I knew from my own experience how urgently important the library is for the citizens of our Commonwealth.” So, when an unofficial “writer’s seat” previously held by Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough became open, Jim was happy to join the Boston Public Library’s Board of Trustees. During his 11-year tenure, Jim chaired the Neighborhood Services Initiative and the BPL Compass Committee.

Rep. Byron Rushing with former Boston Public Library Trustee James Carroll (right).

“Culture changed more between 1450 and 1550, one might argue, than in any other century over the last several millennia. A vast population of Europe that had no relationship to reading, for example, within a century became significantly literate,” he explains. “So from Gutenberg to Shakespeare, this revolution in human awareness embodied in reading and the book, and the changes in the way the human mind works, the way communication works, the way culture identifies itself— all of that followed on a technological revolution in how human beings read.”

To Jim, we’re going through a version of the very same thing—perhaps with even more far-reaching consequences. “And libraries are at the dead center of this revolution, which is why it’s so urgent,” he says.

Recognizing that there is resistance to the evolution in digital technology, he warns against succumbing to it. “The library can’t be defensive and afraid of new technologies on one hand—that’s the perfect formula for being left behind and discarded by culture—and it can’t let go of its custodianship of the treasured literacy of the past,” he says. “It’s more important than ever that we remember what the book was and learn from how human beings treasured it. The Boston Public Library is doing a great job, in my opinion, of maintaining the cultural tradition by keeping the book as the central symbol, but also understanding that service to the public is about far more than books.” He adds that, “If there were no public libraries today, someone with the brilliant idea of establishing public libraries would never get the funding. It would never happen today. There’s no way government—local, state, or federal—would undertake to embark on the library system.”

Fortunately, he sees a brighter future ahead for the Boston Public Library. As he puts it, “I think it’s the center of public service, the heart of the way city government responds to the needs of its citizens as they grow from infancy to old age, centrally and in partnership with public schools and other public institutions.”

For that reason, he predicts “more and more, not less and less” public resources poured into libraries, enabling them to expand their services. In his vision, libraries will serve as community centers and connectors. “Many community members urgently require the services that are available at the library, whether you’re talking about internet access so that people can go online and apply for jobs or academic assistance for kids who are living in homes where both parents are working late, and so forth,” he says. “The library does it all.”