In January 2016 I shared a list of new year's resolutions. Number eight on the list was "explore the Boston Public Library." Despite living in Boston for all 32 years of my life, I had never set foot in there! I had walked by a thousand times, but I was determined 2016 would be the year I actually stepped through the doors.
Like the true procrastinator that I am, I waited until Wednesday, December 28th to tackle this resolution. Whoops.
I headed to Copley around 2:00pm and I was pretty positive the library would be packed with families looking for something to do during school vacation.
The library was decorated with beautiful wreaths in honor of the holiday season.
The building looked so regal with the holiday decorations and the American flags waving in the wind.
Two fun facts about the Boston Public Library: one, the building opened its doors in 1848 and two, admission to the library is free. Anyone can walk in off the street and poke around. There is no entrance fee or membership card required.
I was immediately impressed by the marble staircase inside the Dartmouth Street entrance. And I wasn't the only one - people of all ages were stopping to take photos.
The light fixture hanging over the steps felt like something from a European castle.
On the second floor is Bates Hall, named for the library's first great benefactor, Joshua Bates. I have seen countless photos of this room (and its signature green lamps) and was excited to finally experience it in person.
Everyone in the room was completely silent. There was no whispering or chatter like you might hear in a high school library.
I walked the entire perimeter of the room, taking it in from all angles. The walls are lined with shelves featuring volumes on the history of each town in Massachusetts. I was able to locate my hometown pretty quickly and was definitely entertaining the idea of checking one of these out.
When I reached the opposite end of Bates Hall I was able to snap a photo of the full length of the room. It's so gorgeous that it gives you pause.
After fantasizing about meeting the love of my life at one of the Bates Hall tables, I wound my way back down to the first floor.
Just to the right of the staircase is the Map Room Cafe where you can grab a hot or cold drink and a light snack.
The cafe is rather cavernous!
Through the cafe, in the back left corner, is the entrance to the Courtyard Restaurant. This space is much more elegant and serves tea and finger sandwiches.
Beyond the doors of the cafe and restaurant is the outdoor courtyard.
It's hard to love any courtyard in Boston as much as the magical one at the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum, but the library's is quite lovely. This would be a peaceful place to come eat lunch in the summer.
Back inside, I made my way to the Map Room.
I couldn't resist a selfie with one of the first maps of Boston.
Inside, the Map Room has lots to see, including little nooks for kids with books, puzzles and globes.
As you exit the Map Room, you find yourself in the hallway that leads to the newly renovated part of the library. That wall is decorated with a 3D mosaic of books.
The mission of the library is etched in stone by the Boylston Street entrance.
The refreshed areas of the building seem overly bright and piercing to the eye compared to rooms in the original building.
I was shocked by the Newsfeed Cafe, a hybrid coffee shop / film studio (sponsored by WGBH). It is a total assault on the senses. They have not one, not two, but three digital banners that run scrolling text like a stock ticker.
Though the cafe seems to be pushing a digitally savvy image, they sell snail mail cards and postcards as souvenirs.
By this point, I had walked the entire first and second floor of both sides of the building (original and renovated). When planning my visit I had actually hoped to take a guided tour, but they offer them at super inconvenient times. You can go at 11:00am on Wednesdays, Fridays or Saturdays, 2:00pm on Sundays, 2:30pm on Mondays or 6:00pm on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Despite having this entire week off from work, none of the available tour times worked with my schedule. I do hope to go back and take the tour in 2017.
If I lived in Back Bay or the South End, I would definitely grab my laptop and work from Bates Hall.
Are you a regular at the Boston Public Library? Is there a room I should be sure to see on my next visit?