Boston Public Library: An Off-Syllabus Field Trip

On my recent trip to New England, I had a day to spend in Boston. The list of potential bookish sites to visit was completely overwhelming (and unfeasible in the amount of time that I had), but one thing that was high on my list was the Boston Public Library. Every article I had read noted it as a must-see, and I was certainly drawn to the oldest municipal library in the United States. I only had about ten minutes to check it out (heh, unintentional library puns), but it was definitely worth the stop, even if it was a quick visit.

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The entire city of Boston is packed with history, and it was wonderful to see the way that the library fit right alongside the churches and courtrooms of our nascent days as a nation. The outside certainly reminded me of a monument or a museum, but the bustle of people also gave me the sense that this was still an active and vibrant hub for Boston, still fulfilling its dedication to the advancement of learning. Though some people seem to think that technology is obviating the library, I know that our libraries are as vital now as they have ever been, and are doing the important work of making sure that information is available to everyone. (Of course, being a resident of Columbus has made me especially passionate about libraries–I’m very lucky to live in a city that has such a wonderful resource). That’s why I was so excited to see this library, a testament to both how crucial libraries have been in our history and how essential they continue to be in modern communities.

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As soon as you walk into the Boston Public Library, you get a sense of this importance. The lobby of this library is like a palace (which is, in my opinion, completely appropriate). This part of the library was definitely the most grand, and it immediately inspired a sense of reverence, as much as the historic churches and monuments that are so abundant in Boston. (Trying to take a picture that captured the whole sense was completely impossible!)

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As you venture deeper into the library, the mood transitions from the more grandiose monument to a place of scholarship and work. The large reading room was probably my favorite spot; it made me completely nostalgic for my college days. I could just imagine sitting in here working on my thesis. (Leave it to me to be daydreaming about studying on vacation!)

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As you move even deeper, the mood and decor of the library completely transitions into a sleek modern hub of information and resources. It was so inviting and comfortable, but I had one section in particular that I wanted to see: the children and teen sections. Of all the bookish jobs I’ve gotten to do, I’ve felt the most passionate about working with students to inspire a love of reading and access to language and literacy, and I was curious what these sections would look like in this library. I was not disappointed. The children’s section was bright and colorful, and the teen section was funky and cool without trying too hard to be. It seemed like a place that would be completely inviting. The library had clearly put a lot of time and energy into making sure these spaces were encouraging, and I was glad (but not surprised) to see that they were a priority.

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I wished I had had all day to browse the stacks, explore the labyrinthine rooms, and find a cozy spot to devour a new book. Even still, I’m glad I got to take a quick look around this wonderful library.

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