Digitization at the BPL and a Digital Library for Massachusetts: Chapter 2

Authored by Christina Manzo, BPL Digital Projects Intern, on February 1, 2012

In honor of April, we bring you February…

Happy Helmikuu!

February has traditionally gotten kind of a bad wrap.

Its name in Old English was Solmonath, or “Mud Month” and during the reign of Charlemagne it was referred to as Hornung, meaning “the shedding of antlers”. I prefer to think of it as the Finns do. They call February helmikuu, which means “the month of the pearl”. The Finns gave February this name because they associated it with the droplets of snow that began to melt off the trees as the landscape prepared itself for spring.

Here at the BPL, we’ve been doing a lot of helmikuu-type work, mainly focusing on fostering new relationships with libraries throughout Massachusetts. So it seems only appropriate that on the first day of this month of preparation and transition, we set off to meet with the staff at the Gleason Public Library in Carlisle, Mass. for the first time.

The building’s history dates back to 1896, but the records we were there to pick up went back even further. The library is home to volumes of local history and genealogical information that read much like a family scrapbook. There were articles, documents, pictures, and notes, all meticulously handwritten, collected, and preserved in carefully organized notebooks.

These documents might not seem relevant to anyone outside of Carlisle, but I think it’s a good example of what this project is all about: what’s most important? Not what’s most important to us, but what is most important to the libraries we help. We ask every library we help to think about what is the most important to the communities they serve. What gets used the most? What is the most useful or popular? What would help your town the most? We are trying to take the time to focus on the needs of libraries, big or small, throughout the entire state. We are the “Library for the Commonwealth”, not just the “Library for the Greater Boston Area.”

Although our trip was brief, it was incredibly productive. We met with the library staff, answered a lot of questions about the process, took inventory of the volumes and got a tour of the library. We even got to see some antique dental equipment currently on exhibit. And as we were setting our GPS device for home, a true Kodak moment occurred.

“Should I enter in the address?”

“No, just press home. The BPL is home.”

Happy Helmikuu everyone! I hope you find your pearls.

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