Boston Public Library


The Boston Public Library, is a pioneer among US libraries. It was the first library to allow citizens to borrow books and materials, the first to establish off-site branches, the first library to designate a “children’s room” and storytelling, and the largest public research library in New England. The library has a wide variety of resources, along with rare historical artifacts, including early editions of William Shakespeare’s early works and original scores of Mozart.

Known to locals as the “BPL”, the library has an unimagineable amount of materials available for use to members of the library and nonmembers. According to its website, it gives patrons access to over 24 million items of all formats, including 6.1 million books.

Library cards are free, and easy to obtain, so long as you can prove you’re a Boston resident. The library recommends bringing either a driver’s license from Massachusetts showing a current Boston residence, or bringing formal letters, along with another form of photo identification.

Yesterday, I went to the library to get information regarding a Supreme Court case I am learning about for my Law of the Press class. I went into the library through its Boylston street side, also known as the newer building. I got a bit lost, seeing as it’s enormous, and there are hidden rooms and side nooks everywhere. Finally, I resorted to going to the front desk to ask for directions. I told the nice man at the desk what I was working on, and he sent me off to the McKim Building.

Built in 1895, the McKim Building was the original “Boston Public Library”, made up of the main room which held the resources, a children’s room, a courtyard and galleries to display exhibits.

Today, the McKim Building is where the BPL houses its research collection.

I went into Bates Hall, an absolutely beautiful reading room. It was shockingly quiet for such a full room – a policeman walked up and down the aisle to ensure the room remained silent, for working purposes. Long wooden tables line the room, illuminated by beautiful green lamps and enormous arched windows.

Upon walking through the building, the librarians sit quietly at the desk, waiting to help anyone who asks. I went up to one of the women, Linda Bain, a Boston resident and long-time librarian at the BPL. Unfortunately, the particular court case I was looking up has apparently no resources available anywhere…but she tried to help me for over an hour. She didn’t just stand next to me, reading over my shoulder. She sat me down with a stack of Supreme Court books and newspapers she found, then disappeared for thirty minutes, handing me a packet saying she “couldn’t find material anywhere”. However, she managed to find information I never would have thought to look for – including the current e-mail address of one of the attorneys on the case (which was from 1973).

700 Boylston Street, Copley Square, Boston, MA 02116

Telephone: 617 536 5400

Handicap Accessible: Yes

Closest T Station: Copley [Right in front of the library]

Days & Hours of Operation, Johnson & McKim Building Hours:
Monday-Thursday: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

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About kimberlybrussell

Journalism major & sociology minor, finishing up my last year of college.
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