Thursday, April 3, 2008

Boston Athenaeum

I'm a bit of a public library freak. I spend hours in there doing research and writing, and I even like to check out public libraries when I'm on the road. I love the new generation of libraries being built in cities such as Seattle and Vancouver. They are funky, modern architectural gems and definitely not your father's library with their wi-fi features, computer labs, and cafes. But I still love the stately manses and reading rooms of older libraries, such the the Boston Public Library and the New York Public Library.

Despite the democratic benefits of public libraries, I've always been a bit fascinated by athenaeums, which are private membership libraries. (Although for the life of me, I can never spell "athenaeum" correctly without spellcheck.) They are particularly prevalent in cities across New England, and The New York Times had a interesting article recently in its Escapes section on athenaeums. The Boston Athenaeum is among those covered in the article. I've only been on the athenaeum's first floor while checking out exhibits, but what a sanctuary it is with its rows of books, sculptures, wood floors, and painting. And there is a great view over the Granary Burying Ground.

You don't have to be a member of the Boston Athenaeum to go inside. It regularly hosts exhibits that are open to the public, and tours of the building are given. Tours with an emphasis on the art and architecture of the athenaeum are offered twice weekly—Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm. Tours are limited in size and require reservations. Call the circulation department at 617.227.0270 ext. 279 for reservations and questions. For more information, check out the web site of the Boston Athenaeum.

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