Stopping the COVID learning slide

School E-Content (CARES ACT)

In 2020, Massachusetts students and school staff borrowed 565,645 eBooks and audiobooks through the school eBook and audiobook program called Commonwealth eBook Collection (CEC). The CEC program ranked #1 in the Northeast and third across U.S. schools.

CARES Act funds were used bring more eContent to the CEC. School membership in CEC has more than doubled since the beginning of the pandemic and circulation has increased by more than 25% in just the last four months.

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Summer reading (LSTA)

In summer 2020, more than 430,000 people participated in statewide summer reading programs proven to help kids maintain academic skills. In fact, Massachusetts kids read more than 1.7 million minutes in their first ever statewide reading challenge held during pandemic summer 2020. These programs help close the literacy gap, a critical predictor of academic success.

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Remote learning software (LSTA and CARES Act)

The MBLC is using federal funding to give libraries access to a software program which allows users to register, track progress, earn badges, write book reviews and stay connected during the summer months, but also year round.

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Databases (LSTA)

The statewide database program provides critical access to research databases that no community or school system could afford to purchase on its own. As school systems switched to remote learning, databases were vital to access reliable information and research online for school projects. In just 3 months (Dec 2020, Jan 2021, Feb 2021) people accessed more than 1.1 million full text articles.

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Expanding Access

Library eBooks and Audiobooks (LSTA)

LEA allows Massachusetts library users to access eBooks, audiobooks, and more from 345 participating libraries from across the Commonwealth. This statewide system allows eContent to be shared in a similar way to how physical materials are shared through the delivery system, opening up access that was previously unavailable for eBooks and audiobooks. Over 772,000 items are available to borrow and circulation has increased 37% since January 2020.

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Expanding eContent collections (CARES Act)

As Library for the Commonwealth, Boston Public Library (BPL) serves all Massachusetts residents. The MBLC and BPL are working together to use CARES Act funds to make more statewide eContent available and reduce wait times for in-demand titles and topics like self-care and wellness.

The Commonwealth Catalog/ComCat (LSTA)

The Commonwealth Catalog/ComCat gives residents access to millions of items that their own library network doesn’t have. Residents simply request items through ComCat and they’re delivered to right to the residents’ local library for pick-up, usually within a few days. Despite the pandemic and a pause in lending through ComCat, residents borrowed millions of items through the statewide resource sharing system. This also helps local libraries save money because they don’t have to purchase every item a resident needs.

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Staying Connected and Helping Each Other (LSTA)

The one stop, easy way for residents to access all statewide services, including digital content, research databases, digitized collections, eBooks and newspapers. Early in the pandemic, the MBLC launched a new calendar of virtual library events on the site. At virtual events people are making new friends, seeing old friends and participating in library programs anywhere in the state.

The site is also home to the newly created outdoor library Wi-Fi map. When libraries had to close their buildings due to COVID, outdoor library Wi-Fi access became a way for many to continue working and participating in school.

During the peak of the pandemic, more than 79% of site traffic was from new users.

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Teen mental health and wellness (CARES Act)

During remote statewide check-ins with Teen/Young Adult librarians, mental health emerged as a concern for teens. The MBLC is working with public and school librarians to provide in-depth sessions to identify signs of mental health issues and provide resources for teens impacted by COVID-19. The sessions will be led by Mental Health USA trainers coordinated by Walker Cares of Natick, MA.

Direct Grants to Libraries


The MBLC’s direct grants to libraries program awarded $454,305 in 40 LSTA grants to public, academic, and special libraries across the Commonwealth.

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Funds were used for direct grants to libraries in two grant rounds: $72,461 in 27 grants to public and school libraries in the summer grant round; and $54,900 in 20 grants in February 2021. The grants helped libraries meet the demand for virtual programming and services for remote learning and working.