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MBLC Celebrates 125 Years


The administrators of the six regional library systems which existed in 1997

Regional administrators (left to right): Greg Pronevitz, Ruth Kowal, Cindy Roach, Sunny Vandermark, John Ramsay, and Anne Parent.1

The MBLC worked with the state legislature to create sweeping change.
The MBLC's strategic plan was the basis for "An Act Implementing the Strategic Plan to Enhance Library Technology and Resource Sharing," filed by State Representative David Cohen and State Senator Richard Moore. 73 co-sponsors from the House and Senate signed on to this legislation, which amended several sections of Chapter 78 of the Massachusetts General Laws.

The bill provided the legal framework for a series of wide-ranging changes and innovations in library services statewide:

  • Expansion of the regional library systems to include school, academic, and special libraries
  • Establishment of the Boston Public Library as the statewide reference and document delivery center
  • Implementation of statewide delivery, interlibrary loan net lender reimbursement, special statewide library services, and enhancement of the automated library networks
  • Implement the Massachusetts Library and Information Network (MLIN)2

In 1997: Regional library systems expanded to six.
Three regional systems - Northeast, Metrowest, and Southeastern - started from scratch: hiring new administrators and staff, signing up new member libraries, surveying member needs, establishing by-laws and more. According to MBLC Notes, they joined the Boston Region, the Western Region, and the Central Region in welcoming public, school, special, and academic libraries to become part of their systems.2

In the following year, regional membership skyrocketed. Prior to 1998, there were 370 regional members; in June of 1998 there were 1,169, all agreeing to share their collections via interlibrary loan in their region.

TODAY: In 2009, the ongoing budget crisis and the ensuing severe reductions in state funding to libraries caused the consolidation of the six-region system. As of July 1, 2010, there is currently one regional library system, the Massachusetts Library System, serving all types of libraries across the entire Commonwealth.

In 1997: Statewide access to electronic databases arrived for the first time.
According to MBLC Notes, "Any Massachusetts library with an Internet connection is eligible to participate in the six-month demonstration project. Participating libraries have access to Expanded Academic ASAP, Health Reference Center, and General Business File ASAP."2

TODAY: All Massachusetts residents and students have access to over 58 electronic collections, encyclopedias, newspapers, and reference books from wherever they have Internet access.

What else happened in 1997?

  • J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was published in the U.K. It came to U.S. in 1998, now titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.3
  • James Cameron's Titanic crashed into theaters. It was the most expensive film of all time, costing between $250 and $300 million to produce and market.3
  • July 4: U.S. spacecraft began exploration of Mars.3

1. Image from MBLC files.
2. MBLC Annual Report, 1998.
3. [link].