Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Boston Public Library

I had to do some research yesterday, so I headed in to the Boston Public Library. Despite recent press reports, I actually found my way to the central library pretty easily. (And in a bit of praise for the T, I took three trains from the World Trade Center to Copley and got there in 16 minutes. Now if they can work on climate control at Park Street Station. It was so hot, I had to jump over the puddle of Margaret Hamilton to catch the Green Line.)

Whenever I go to New York, I always seem to wander into the Public Library on Fifth Avenue, scaling the staircase past the famous lions. But I haven't spent that much time at the BPL. Another case of overlooking the places in your own backyard.

Boston's library has its own lions, flanking the Main Staircase inside the Dartmouth Street entrance. The interior of the original building, the McKim Building (named after its architect Charles McKim), is spectacular. Its marble and murals provide a palazzo feel to the building. The main reading room, Bates Hall, is on the second floor. The room runs the length of the building. Book-lined shelves ring the room. Sun filters in through the large, arched windows. A barrel-vaulted ceiling soars above. As far are you can see are table after table with dim reading lights glowing behind their green shades. It's a true cathedral to learning and a very inspirational place to do your research, reading, or studying.

One of the nice features of the Boston Public Library compared to New York's is the central courtyard, which also has an Italian feel to it. The bubbling of the courtyard's fountain and the shaded seats along the walls provide a great place to take a break or a nice change of scenery to keep doing your work.

The library was expanded in the early 1970s, and the addition contains the main stacks of circulating books. The addition was designed by Philip Johnson, the American architect best known for the Glass House, and is referred to as the Johnson building. Unfortunately, the interior of this part of the library looks pretty beat up and doesn't provide nearly the same experience as the McKim Building.

The library provides art and architecture tours every day except Wednesday. There are also rotating exhibits to check out. And you don't have to be a resident of Boston to get a library card (you do have to be a Massachusetts resident). Anyone without a card can get a courtesy card to use any of the research facilities at the library.

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