Annual Conference & INFO-EXPO Boston Convention & Exhibition Center June 14 -16, 2015

Categorized | Books, Boston for...

Boston for Bibliophiles: Libraries

Boston for Bibliophiles: Libraries

by SLA New England member Nicole Dutton, MLIS — Librarian and Records Management Analyst at the Charles S. Morgan Technical Library of the National Fire Protection Agency

See also “Boston for Bibliophiles: Bookstores

All librarians know you don’t need to buy books to enjoy them. Here are some great places to visit when you’re in the city and don’t have any room left in your luggage for books.

The Boston Public Library Central Library in Boston
One of the oldest public libraries in the country, the BPL’s central library in Copley Square is worth a visit for the building alone, never mind the amazing book collection. The hour-long walking tours are on a variable schedule, so email or call 617-859-2216 for more information. You can also check out the John Singer Sargent murals in the eponymous gallery, the decorative art by Puvis de Chavannes, or The Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail, a fifteen-piece artistic telling of the Grail legend by Edwin Austen Abbey.  Literary Landscapes: Maps from Fiction will be on exhibit this summer. If you’re peckish, consider lunch or tea at the Courtyard Restaurant, overlooking the Italianate central courtyard, or breakfast or lunch at the Maproom.

The Cambridge Public Library Main Branch in Cambridge
There are two main buildings to the CPL, a towering stone wing carved with gargoyles and a shiny new glass-and-steel wing. The gargoyles alone are almost worth the trip to this lovely spot outside of Harvard Square. But don’t miss the Cambridge room, which houses special collections relating to all things Cantabridgian. There’s an airy and light-filled reading room and one of the better graphic novel and comic collections you’re likely to find in a public library anywhere. There are no on-site restaurants, but you’re literally a few blocks from Harvard Square.

Longfellow House National Historic Site outside of Harvard Square
“Listen my children and you shall hear…” about one of our young nation’s most famous poets. A quick walk from Harvard Square, this historic house and gardens are steeped in the history that Longfellow helped make famous. Many of great men and women have visited this house at one point or another, including Dickens, Hawthorne, and, most famously, George Washington, who used it as his HQ during the siege of Boston.

Make Way for Ducklings statues, the Boston Common
Officially the only statue dedicated to heroic waterfowl in the U.S., this is one of the most popular photo ops in the city. Based, of course, on the Robert McCloskey book of the same title, you can’t visit the city without pausing to pat Mama Duck and her little ones (Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack). Expect some friendly jostling with tourists, nannies, mamas, and small children to get near the famous ducks.

Boston’s Literary District, Boston
Do you want to see where Lois Lowry lived? What about Louisa May Alcott, Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath, Henry James, Al Capp, John Updike, Khalil Gibran, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and too many others to list? If you are content to gaze on the exteriors of these places (rather than actually go inside), then you should get the Boston Lit District Map and take a walking tour. Walk the same streets as your literary heroes and see where they ate, wrote, and published.

Boston Athenæum, Boston
A 200-year-old private library with a red door, the Athenæum elicits mixed emotions for many. Part library, part museum, part social club, entirely members-only, the Athenæum is wholly Bostonian in its combination of deep cultural appreciation combined with quiet exclusivity. There are five floors of (reportedly) lovely rooms and collections.  Alas, as a visitor you can only see them during the twice-a-week Art and Architecture tours on Tuesday and Thursdays at 3.

Edgar Allen Poe statue, near Boston Common
Check out this recently unveiled statue of the Boston native striding down Boylston Street, cape flowing behind him.

If you want to venture beyond Boston you can also visit: 

Orchard House and other sites in Concord, MA
Meg, Jo, Amy, Beth, Marmee…. If those names summon childhood memories that makes you smile, then you have to take a trip out of the city to nearby Concord for a visit to Louisa May Alcott’s famous Orchard House, the autobiographical setting for Little Women. The tours are first-come-first-serve, so you can’t book ahead and sometimes they fill up fast, but this is a must-see for many bibliophiles. In addition to Orchard House, you can also visit The Ralph Waldo Emerson House, The Old Manse, The Wayside, Walden Pond, and The Sleepy Hollow Cemetery while you’re in Concord. Be aware that there’s no public transportation and parking can be tricky at all these sites (or anywhere in Concord, really).

The House of the Seven Gables in Salem, MA
Explore the house made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The House of the Seven Gables. Constituting its own National Historic Landmark District, the 2.5 acre museum campus includes carefully preserved 17th and 18th century period homes, three-season Colonial Revival Gardens and breathtaking views of Salem Harbor, Derby Wharf, and the tall ship Friendship.  Salem is about a 45 minute drive from Boston or you can get there via public transporation.

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