Read an excerpt from the new book about The Insurance Library Association of Boston’s last 60 years
As you many of our longtime readers know, Agency Checklists loves The Insurance Library Association of Boston. Founded in 1887, the Insurance Library Association of Boston is the leading resource and provider of literature, information services and continuing education classes for the Massachusetts insurance industry (and beyond.) As the only remaining private library in the country dedicated solely to the topic of insurance, the Library survives and thrives through the support of the insurance community who join the Library as members.
While we know we are not alone in that many people love the Insurance Library and take pride in its location and mission in Massachusetts, we thought our readers would be interested to know that a new book about this venerable institution will be coming out soon. Former Executive Director Jean Lucey and Trustee Emeritus, Frederick N. Nowell, III, have joined forces to document the modern history of Library and to continue the history that was documented in the first volume written and published on the Insurance Library’s in 1947, entitled, The Insurance Library Association of Boston: The First Sixty Years.
Picking up the Library’s story from there, Lucey and Nowell have taken on the task of documenting the Library’s modern history and growth in the last 60-off years. One of the more interesting facts about the Insurance Library and something that many an insurance professional may not know is that the Library has not always occupied the building it owns on 156 State Street. In fact, the Library did not buy nor move into that building until almost 100 years after it began. The following excerpt from Lucey and Nowell’s new book recounts some of the many “homes” the Library has actually had over the years and in this excerpt how it moved into the location it once inhabited at One Beacon Street.
The Insurance Library Moves To One Beacon Street
Many insurance companies and agencies were moving away from the Broad Street area, which had been the center of the property and casualty insurance community in Boston for many years, to new buildings clustered around Government Center. “Certainly our lack of people coming in to use our facilities is due, in great measure, to the removal of so many insurance firms from 89 Broad Street and locally surrounding this building to Center Plaza.” The effect on foot traffic at 89 Broad Street was apparent. By October 1971 the average number of daily visitors at the Library had fallen from 40 to 20. The Library’s lease expired in 1973, but to follow the tide and move closer to Government Center would almost certainly involve additional expense for an organization that was already under financial pressure.
A hero emerged in the form of Trustee Henry S. Stone, President of the Commercial Union Insurance Company (“CU”) who offered space to the Library on the fifteenth floor of CU’s recently completed U.S. Home Office building at One Beacon Street. The space that CU sub-let to the Library was significantly smaller than the old space in the Batterymarch Building, shrinking from 2,133 square feet to 1,176 square feet, but the new space was adjacent to CU’s education department, and the Library was permitted to use CU’s classrooms.
Another housecleaning ensued. A book sale netted $250. Fifty-eight cartons of books were donated to the Boston Public Library. Kathy Berggren employed “a male assistant” to handle the logistics and to come up with a floor plan which included locating the librarians next to a window with a spectacular view looking up the Charles River. The rent was higher, increasing from $13,000 to $14,800 annually for less space, but at $12.59 per square foot was, through the courtesy of Commercial Union, less than the building was asking of other tenants.
The move to One Beacon Street was made on May 19, 1973. New shelving was purchased, furniture was reupholstered, and two college students were employed to dust the books. Rustoleum yellow [!] paint was applied to the map catalog, the metal card catalog, the stools, coat rack and book trucks. An open house was held on July 19, in conjunction with special meetings of the members and Trustees to inspect the “new Library.” The Trustees, in arranging for the Library to follow the migration of some of the major carriers to the Government Center area, hoped that the new location would be “be more in the mainstream of the business and perhaps draw a larger and more interested membership.” The Standard and US Investor and Eastern Banker carried announcements of the move. Of particular interest to field men and underwriters was the Library’s collection of Sanborn Maps, a series of large scale fire insurance maps that contained valuable information about the construction, occupancy, fire protection, and exposure of buildings in the various New England cities and towns.
When the library moved to One Beacon Street there were questions as to whether our collection of Sanborn maps would move with it. Bill Woodland noted that many who used the Sanborn maps were not part of the insurance industry and that it was dangerous to use the maps since they were not up to date. In the event, as the British say, the Library gave away 300 Sanborn maps of towns outside Massachusetts which had not been consulted for over a year. The remaining maps, covering Massachusetts and the principal cities of the other New England States, were moved into the new space.
Warren Marshall, Past President of Library, congratulated Kathy Berggren “on the excellent work you did in setting up the new library quarters, and I am sure you will find it most enjoyable to help the library grow.”  The Trustees noted  in their records that the move could not have been accomplished without the support of Commercial Union and its president, Henry Stone. It was also noted that the space “could not be duplicated for anything approximating the same rental.”
Trustee and teacher Clyde McCarthy died in 1973. The members of the Association observed a moment of silence in his memory by at Annual Meeting of October 30, 1973. Orlando Sargent filled in for him in the 1973-74 year and Joseph Sciacca, who himself became a long-time and popular instructor, began teaching INS-22 in McCarthy’s stead in January 1975.
The fall 1973 INS-21 course saw a surge of enrollment to 54, owing in part to the perceived convenience of the new location at One Beacon Street, and the Insurance Department’s determination that applicants for brokers licenses who took the Library’s courses were eligible to sit for the exam in fire and casualty insurance.
The Education Committee addressed the possibility of giving additional courses. It was noted that adjuster’s courses had not done well in the past and that the Insurance Institute seemed to have cornered the market in CPCU courses, leaving the Library in charge of introductory courses. “It was agreed that the Library was doing a minimal amount of educational activity at this time but there is a good potential for income if additional courses are offered. The Association cannot meet its financial obligations from membership dues alone, and it must look to providing additional services as a means of obtaining [meeting] operating expenses.”
Ellis Carson proposed five or six lecture courses on topics such as product liability and risk management. The Committee assessed potential venues at King’s Chapel and the New England Tel. & Tel. building but decided to hold the inaugural lecture at noon on May 15, 1974 in Commercial Union’s Green Room. Insurance Commissioner John Ryan was the inaugural speaker. Ellis Carson donated money to cover mailing costs. Maurice Saval donated space in The Standard to advertise the courses. Various trade associations, among them the Massachusetts Association of Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers, the Independent Mutual Agents of New England, the Massachusetts Insurance Buyers Association, the Massachusetts Association of Casualty and Property Underwriters, and the Insurance Managers Association of Boston put information about our courses in their mailings. The event was a rousing success with 127 attendees.
 Letter John T. Trefry, Jr. to Warren E. Marshall, 2 Aug 1971.
 Librarian’s Report, Oct. 20, 1971.
 May 11, 1973 and April 28, 1973 respectively
 Letter Warren E. Marshall to Kathleen Berggren, July 20, 1973.
 Trustees Minutes, July 19, 1973.
 Education Committee Minutes, Nov. 14, 1973
Mapping The Moves The Insurance Library Has Made Over The Years
The following is a list of the “homes” the Insurance Library has had since 1973:
- 55 Kilby Street; 2. 2 Oliver Building; 3. 40 Broad Street; 4. 89 Broad Street; 5. 156 State Street (the Library’s first owned property)
For those interested in a copy of the book, the soon-to-be published tome should be available in either late 2014 or early 2015 directly from The Insurance Library Association of Boston. To pre-order your copy contact Sarah Hart of the Insurance Library here.