or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 5/18/08

   May 24th, 2008 Brian Herzog

UHF logoA patron called in and asked for a listing of all the public access television stations in Massachusetts. She said she had an idea for a show, and wanted to see about getting it on the air.

In our reference collection, we have the Directory of Massachusetts Broadcasters, from the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association, but it didn't seem to list public access stations. I called them and spoke with someone who checked with their assistant director. The word was that they do not deal with public access, and they suggested calling a local station and asking if they had a directory.

We do have a local cable station in town, Chelmsford Telemedia, but they patron said she had tried calling them but couldn't get through. We've got a pretty good relationship with them since they film lots of programs at the library, but when I called everyone was out of the office, too - those are four hard working guys.

So, continuing on, I tried the Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media, which is also in our reference collection. This looked like it had what the patron wanted, but also listed a lot besides public access stations and seemed difficult to sift through.

Next I tried the FCC and Massachusetts State government websites, thinking they might provide a list, but couldn't find a simple list. Then it was onto the general internet, using searches like "list of public access stations" and "public access television massachusetts," and found:

All of these listed more or less the same stations. I called the patron back to let her know what I found, and she was happy to hear about the online lists. I sent her all the urls in an email, and also said that if she comes to the library we can help her look through the Gale directory.

I never heard back, so I take that as a good sign - the online lists got her off and running on her project, and she was just too busy to reply (whereas I usually hear back right away if the information is not helpful).

I still feel like there should be an official government source for this type of listing, but I still have yet to find it through any official channels.

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