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MBLC Celebrates 125 Years


Somerville Public Library, West Branch

Somerville Public Library, West Branch - a Carnegie library that opened its doors on May 27, 1909.1

A growing need for staff:
The Commission was busier than ever in 1909, what with the ever-expanding number of free public libraries and their collections blossoming throughout the Commonwealth. Requests for assistance and advice were flooding the five commissioners' mailboxes, and in hopes of keeping up with the influx of correspondence, the year's annual report expressed an interest in acquiring a paid staff for the first time:

"The clerical and other work of the commission has been for many years performed almost entirely without expense to the State. Under new conditions, however, and in view of the steadily increasing demands, the commission feels the necessity... of paid assistance in some form."2

Yearly expenditures:
The Commission was under its $2,000 budget appropriation for 1909-1910 by $15.35.

1909-1910 Annual Expenditures for the Year

(Budget numbers for FY 2016 look somewhat different!)

What else happened in 1909?

  • Construction began on the Cape Cod Canal, connecting Cape Cod Bay to Buzzards Bay and separating the Cape from mainland Massachusetts.3
  • The American Library Association moved its headquarters from 34 Newbury Street in Boston to a space donated by the Chicago Public Library.4
  • NAACP founded in 1909: "W.E.B. Du Bois was among the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and from 1910 to 1934 served it as director of publicity and research, a member of the board of directors, and editor of the Crisis, its monthly magazine‚Ķ Du Bois's most lasting contribution is his writing. As poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, sociologist, historian, and journalist, he wrote 21 books, edited 15 more, and published over 100 essays and articles."[5][6]

    Born in Great Barrington in Western Massachusetts, Du Bois's name graces the library at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He was "the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard" and "returned to his alma mater in the early 1900s to give a lecture on 'the race question.'"[5][6] We continue to have these conversations today.

1. Photo: Digital Commonwealth collections [link].
2. Twentieth Report of the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts. 1910.
3. Cape Cod Canal - Wikipedia entry [link].
4. American Library Association [link].
5. [link].
6. NAACP [link].