I walked in the front doors the first time I went to the Boston Public Library.
There is a large, wide staircase flanked by statues leading up to the oversized double doors. A security guard sits near the entrance. He nodded at me and stared a bit as I went in. People don’t use the front entrance. I didn’t realize that. I’d only seen the building from afar and wanted to go in.
I didn’t realize how huge the building was, or that the main entrance was now on the side around the corner in the more modern addition. The front entrance goes into the old original building. There is a grand staircase inside, with mosaic frescoes on the walls. I went up the stairs and proceeded to wander through the largest reference library I’ve ever seen. The building also houses the John Adams Presidential Library. I didn’t go in there, I just peeked through the door.
I wandered through the museum-like exhibits, the music reference room, and a wide variety of other places before I finally found myself at a directory and map of the building. I’d never been in such an enormous library that it needed a directory and map. The Boston Public Library is made up of two buildings and an inner courtyard between them. The buildings are connected, with the older building housing the John Adams Presidential Library, the bulk of the reference section, and some of the exhibit space and the newer building housing the main stacks. They actually offer guided tours of the library, though I never did manage to make it to one. I had actually gone to sign up for a library card and check out some books. I’d already read through the meager supply of books I’d brought with me when we moved, and I finally had made it to the library to get more.
While I did enjoy wandering through the labyrinthine interconnected rooms of the old library, I took advantage of the map and made my way down to the stacks on the first floor of the newer building. Even that section of the library is huge. I grew up in a smallish city, and went to school in a slightly larger city, but nowhere near as big as Boston, and they had libraries to match. I never made it to the library in Santiago, and it didn’t occur to me in Prague, so BPL was my first big city library. And my first historic library.
It was beautiful and full of books, and I loved being able to go there.