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Special collections

Special Collections

The Local History & Special Collections of the Lawrence Public Library is composed of manuscripts, archives, periodicals, newspapers, photographs, artifacts, and ephemera. Local history materials are available for perusal on the second floor of the main library building. Our archives on the 3rd floor, houses the special collections portion of the local history materials, which are available for viewing upon request. Local History & Special Collections materials do not circulate. These collections are available for viewing in-library. Microfilm readers are available on the 2nd floor.  


Lindsey Gazlay


Research Requests

Research requests can be directed to Reference Librarian & Special Collections Archivist, Lindsey L. Gazlay: The second floor of the main library.

51 Lawrence St. Lawrence, MA 01841




  • Books and serials encompassing these topics:

    • Catholicism

    • Genealogy

    • History of the United States with an emphasis on New England

    • Labor, textiles, and textile history

  • Library of the Pacific Mills

    • Remains of a library once used by employees of the mill and given to the Library

  • Posters of World War I and II

  • Lawrence Public Library collection on Digital Commonwealth

  • Lawrence Public Library collection on the Internet Archive, including Lawrence High School yearbooks


Additional Information

Visit our new Queen City, Massachusetts “Catalog” for details about some interesting holdings in the Library's Special Collections.

Invitation to Donate to Lawrence Public Library Special Collections

Do you care about the history of Lawrence?


Do you want to preserve your rich, cultural heritage?


Here at the library, we are working towards representing the rich history of all of our diverse community members.


Lawrence is known for its multiethnic and multicultural history of being home to the Irish, French Canadian, English, and German in the late 1800s, to the Italians, Poles, Lithuanian, and Syrian, in the early 1900s. And Puerto Rican, Dominican, Vietnamese, and Cambodian arrived in the mid to late 1800s. It has always been an immigrant city and continues to carry its title as the current population in Lawrence is largely Hispanic with a large population of new and recent immigrants (40.6%).


The Lawrence Public Library encourages donations of primary and secondary sources that document the history of the City of Lawrence, its residents, government, environment, businesses, institutions, and organizations to the Special Collections department to be preserved for the future. The library accepts material is these formats: manuscript, printed, or digital. If you have any materials that you would like to donate to the library, please reach out to our librarian for an assessment.

Special Collections Rules & Procedures

  1. No food, gum, candy, or drink is permitted while viewing non circulating and/or special collections materials.

  2. Materials used at tables in the local history area are under the supervision of library staff.

  3. Silence all electronic devices.

  4. All hands must be clean and dry before handling materials.

  5. Photographs and especially fragile paper records may require the use of nitrile gloves in handling these items. The librarian on duty can offer these to researchers.

  6. Pencils only.

  7. Materials may not be transferred from one researcher to another.

  8. Materials may not be leaned on, written on top of, or have objects placed on top of them.

  9. Supports and weights are available as necessary.

  10. All bound material must be used with a book cradle.

  11. Some manuscript materials may be governed by special restrictions, including the physical condition of the manuscripts, and whether microfilm or printed copies are available.

  12. Researchers will be limited to one folder from an archival collection at a time. 5 books will be permitted at a time.

  13. Manuscripts must be maintained by the reader in the order in which they are received. If errors of arrangement or identification are noted, please inform the librarian on duty.

  14. Materials will not be retrieved within thirty minutes of closing time. It is the researcher's responsibility to satisfy copyright requirements for any re-use or material.

  15. Photography of library materials is allowed. Restrictions may apply. Please refer to a librarian for details.

  16. Photocopies and personal photography are for the reader's personal use only, and may not be published, recopied, or deposited in another library.

  17. Pre-booked appointments are highly encouraged for microfilm usage. If the machine is utilized on a first come, first served basis, 1.5-hour time slots will be given to the researcher.

  18. Staff members will pull the desired microfilm reels one at a time for researchers.

Reading a Book

Local History & Special Collections Development Policy

The Lawrence Public Library is dedicated to preserving and promoting the history and culture of Lawrence, Massachusetts. We are proud to offer our patrons access to our wide range of books, magazines, and other media, as well as our Special Collections Development Policy. This policy ensures that our library is actively developing its collections with materials that are relevant to our local community and its history. We strive to ensure that our library remains an invaluable and accessible resource for our patrons.

Special collection Policies

Mission Statement

The Local History Room at the Lawrence Public Library collects, organizes, preserves and provides access to a non-circulating collection of primary and secondary sources that document the history of the City of Lawrence, its residents, government, environment, businesses, institutions, and organizations.

Scope of Collection
The collection includes, but is not limited to, personal manuscript and photograph collections; records of local churches, businesses, and nonprofit organizations such as the Robert Frost Foundation and the White Fund, and numerous papers and published products of city government agencies, including engineering plans, maps, and photographs, school department records and high school yearbooks; police logs, and fire alarm logs. Highlights include a small selection of primary records and a comprehensive collection of published works by the poet Robert Frost. Secondary sources such as books and journals published about the city, religion, immigration, and especially the 19th and 20th century mill and factory industries are also included, along with a broader scope of textiles. Also included is a robust vertical file collection of newspaper clippings covering hundreds of topics and highlights of Lawrence residents, as well as a collection of local newspapers on microfilm from the 19th and 20th century.
Criteria for Inclusion
● Relevance to Lawrence
● Authenticity of record
● Non-duplication of material within the collection
● Quality of physical form of material
● Cost to preserve, store and process
● Restrictions by donor
Items may be accepted in any format, including manuscript, printed, or digital. Photographs and documents may be removed from their frames if accepted into the collection. Three-dimensional artifacts will not be accepted by the Library unless they can be properly housed and are deemed appropriate to the collection.

Donating to the Collection
Because history is created daily, materials that enhance the mission of the Local History Collection and meet the selection criteria will be accepted by the library. The Local History Room staff will not create any new historical documents, only collect, preserve, and make accessible those created by other people and/or organizations. In order to establish the transfer of ownership, the Library requests that a deed of gift be completed by the donor/representative and the Local History Librarian/Archivist. The deed of gift documents the donation of property and transfer of copyright (if applicable) to the Library, and is signed by the donor. It also includes a complete description of the donated item and information regarding past ownership of that item. The deed of gift also establishes conditions (if any) governing the transfer of the title from the donor to the Library. Once the deed of gift is signed by the donor, the donated item becomes the property of the Library. Loans for exhibits may be asked for occasionally, but no permanent material loans will be accepted by the Local History Room. The Library reserves the right to refuse an offered donation. The Library will not accept material that can harm other material in the collection, such as anything that shows damage from mold, mildew, water, insects, smoke, or dirt. The Library may also decide not to accept items which it cannot properly store, display, or otherwise care for.

The Library will only accept material with access-limiting restrictions when the restrictions are reasonable and necessary to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the donor. Any restrictions will be recorded on the deed of gift, and will be adhered to by the Library. All restrictions will specify a date when full access will be granted.
The Library reserves the right to decide how the donated material will be displayed or stored, how the item may be used by the public, and how long the item will be retained. Materials in the local history collection (especially photographs and negatives) may be scanned and placed on the Internet for viewing, may be moved from the local history collection to other sections of the library, may be sold, or may be transferred to another library (See Reappraisal and Accession).

Reappraisals and Accession
Occasionally, the Local History Collection will be reappraised, and the deaccession of some materials may take place. The Library will offer the deaccessioned materials to appropriate institutions or return them to the donor, depending on the requirements of the donor’s deed of gift.

Care of Collections
The Local History Room strives to organize, preserve, and provide access to its collection. A finding aid (a description of a collection with a content list) will be prepared for each collection, and will be accessible to the public. The materials in each collection are organized according to the original order (when applicable), and placed in archival containers. The Local History Room will follow the security practices and disaster planning set by the Library to protect the collection from potential loss or damage.
Monetary Appraisals

The Library will not conduct any monetary appraisals for donors.

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