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MBLC Celebrates 125 Years


Newton Free Library reading room, circa 1890s

Newton Free Library reading room, circa 1890s
(Image from Digital Commonwealth collections)

Since its establishment, the Commission was collecting and analyzing library statistics, mostly gathered from Massachusetts census data. Today, as a part of the requirements of the State Aid to Public Libraries program, librarians throughout the Commonwealth report statistics to the MBLC, collected and shared on the Agency's website.

The year's annual report draws on 1895 census data for public library statistics. Here's how 2014 statistics compare to the 1895 data collected and analyzed in 1898:

  Data collected in 18981 Data collected in 20142
Towns with public libraries 343 370
Circulating items Roughly 3,375,000 52,501,492
Total circulation Roughly 2,665,000 63,379,468

What else happened in 1898?

  • The two-day blizzard known as the Portland Gale devastated the New England coast, dumping snow in Boston and creating storm surges that wrecked over 150 boats and ships. (And yet we've stuck around).3
  • The USS Maine exploded and sunk in Havana Harbor, leading the United States to declare war on Spain.3
  • In December, Marie and Pierre Curie announced their discovery of radium.3

1. Massachusetts Free Public Library Commission Report, 1899.
2. MBLC website [link].
3. 1898 - Wikipedia entry [link].