The Boston Public Library

Grab a coffee, read and explore

Today I’m writing in Bates Hall in the Boston Public Library on Boylston Street.  If you haven’t been to the BPL, specifically this location, I encourage you to plan a visit. In addition to being a massive space with practically every book under the sun to devour, it’s a stunning location for photographs…if you have the patience to wait for the tourists to move out of the way.

I’ve always been a huge fan of libraries.  Within a week of moving to Boston I’d applied for my MA driver’s license (even though I’m happily car-less) and the next day brought my temporary license to the library to get my card.   Though I love books, I hate spending money on them so I always have a queue of books on hold through my eBook library account, ready to download.

Libraries are also a great place to work.  Some people enjoy working in coffee shops. For me they tend to be too loud.  The barista’s choice of music, loud phone conversations and crying kids tend to be just too distracting to me. The library offers more seating and a nice hum of noise in the background that allow me to focus, without feeling isolated in my apartment.  Yes, there are still crying kids around, but at least the parents and nannies feel compelled to try and shush them here.

My first visit to the BPL was functional:  I just wanted my card. I entered through the Boylston Street doors and was a bit disappointed by how ordinary it was inside.  Big and spacious, yes, but I’d expected something more grand after admiring the old stone exterior. It wasn’t until my third visit that I decided to explore, and WOW, I’m so glad I did.

Tip to visitors:  If you are here for books, find them, check them out, and then make your way to the second floor, through the travel section, and over to the McKim Building.  If you aren’t here for books, you can access the McKim Building directly through the doors across from Copley Square.

This part of the library was built in the late 1800’s and feels much more like a museum than a library.  Murals line the walls and ceilings in many of the rooms, a pair of lion sculptures overlook the grand staircase, and the barrel vaulted ceiling in Bates Hall rises high and impressively above the simple oak desks and green lamps that provide a quiet reading space for visitors.

The BPL website provides an excellent history of the architecture of the library.  If you live in Boston, come visit, grab a coffee at one of the two cafes, read a book or two, and appreciate the beautiful architecture that is yours to enjoy for free.


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