Reference Services

Regional Reference Services

Regional member libraries and their patrons have direct access to information beyond the boundaries of their buildings through regional reference services and resources. The Regional Library Systems carry this out through designated Regional Reference and Research Centers located within their respective regions. The Newton Free Public Library is the Regional Reference Center for Metrowest.

When a member library has exhausted local resources, it may contact Newton for back-up reference. Questions are accepted by phone, fax, or email. A toll-free librarian-only phone line is dedicated to regional reference services. Newton Free Library is also participating in MassAnswers, an online reference service that allows patrons to ask questions and get answers, in real time, day or night, on the Internet. This service is manned by reference staffs at libraries in Massachusetts and across the nation. Metrowest has 5 participating libraries, Newton is one of them. Visit to view their services or call their Reference Desk at 617-796-1380.

Mass Answers

The Regional Reference and Research Centers also provide Massachusetts residents with direct access to reference librarians through MassAnswers, a 24/7 web-based reference service coordinated through the Boston Public Library and initially funded with an LSTA grant from the Board.

Electronic Databases

Each Regional Library System also provides access to regionally licensed magazine and neswpaper databases, as well as hands on training for these databases in their computer labs.

To access the Metrowest Online Databases from your computer at home, please go to:

Supplemental Reference and the Library of Last Recourse

The Boston Public Library serves as the Statewide Reference and Referral Center for the Regional Library Systems. In this Role, the Boston Public Library will provide supplemental reference assistance to the Regional Reference and Research Centers for reference requests which fall beyond their available resources.

The Boston Public Library also provides in-depth reference and research services to all residents of the Commonwealth. Ongoing acquisitions maintain a high degree of currency and completeness of holdings in a wide range of subjects from psychology, history and business, to architecture, languages, mathematics and the performing arts. The Boston Public Library also circulates research library materials for use within any public library across the state. The BPL collection represents 6 million books and 11 million patents, as well as hundreds of thousands of other items.