Friday, December 2, 2011

50 Years of Library Cooperation

Last night western Massachusetts librarians, trustees and legislators celebrated 50 years of cooperation, services and advocacy at the Apollo Grille in Easthampton. On December 1, 1961, the first Massachusetts regional library system, the Western Regional Public Library System, was founded.

Even though the Western MA Regional Library System is no longer in action (see below), the Western MA Library Advocates (WMLA) is thriving, offering programs, opportunities for advocacy, and occasions for library advocates to gather, support libraries services in western Mass and share a mutually beneficial and treasured history. This anniversary party was no exception.

Participants from the five western counties brought photos and artifacts from the history of the Western Region, the WMRLS Friends, and the Western MA Library Club (WMLC). (The Advocates is a merger of these last two organizations.) The occasion was honored by the presence of three Regional Administrators: Frank P. Taplin (first), Bruce S. Baker (third), and John E. Ramsay (final). Mass Library Association Ruth Urell attended as did Representative Don Humason and Aide to Senator Knapik Dan O’Brien. Most of the WMLA Board was there as were members of the previous WMLC board.

There were lots of stories, even some new ones. Brian Marchese, former driver for WMRLS observed when looking at the slide show that was being shown: “You know—looking at those pictures, I feel like I’m seeing reruns of an old TV show that I used to watch a lot. Like—‘Oh, here’s the episode where Mary and Jan (insert plotline here)…..’ I have to remind myself that this was actually my life every day for ten years!” In addition to plans for the future, the evening held a lot of history and a lot of joy.

As an aside, the Apollo Grille provided delicious food complemented by the music of guitarist Mark Schwaber. WMLA President Eric Poulin MC’d the comments. On behalf of the Cooperating Libraries of Greater Springfield President Kathy McDonough presented WMLA with a donation of $200 to support advocacy efforts. Everyone had a great time; maybe we’ll do this again next year.

(Following the Western Region, the Central and Eastern regions formed. In 1982, the Western Region became the first Massachusetts regional library system to form a nonprofit corporation. In the late 80’s, an affiliate membership was created to allow a few nonpublic libraries to join the system for ILL and delivery services. In the early ‘90’s, regional systems were expanded to include all types of libraries and the number of systems was increased to 6. In 2010, funding was diminished to such a degree that the 6 systems were dissolved. The Massachusetts Library System was established to support library services in the Commonwealth.)

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