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Seven Hills

Boston-area exploration, travel notes, crafty things, and other Somervillainy.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

At the BPL

When I was growing up my mother worked for the publishing division of the American Library Association. She wasn't a librarian or anything, but I still always felt a certain sense of belonging when it came to libraries, like I knew what went on behind the scenes. We always got those "Read" posters with pictures of Muppets on them, and the Caldecott picture book illustration calendar, and sometimes my mom would bring me galleys of the new Lois Lowry books before they were published. I was an insider. Here's a picture of me at the age of eight in an incongruent glamour pose on the cover of an ALA reference book:

Dig the mod, two-tone design treatment, like it's some kind of jazz album. That wasn't actually a children's book I was perusing; it was a very boring science pamphlet. But that was my favorite t-shirt: "Hearts." I was waiting for my mom at the office after school one day and her coworker needed a kid for the cover of this book. Thus, a star was born.

I'm not a true library nerd - I met too many of those at my old job to think I'm one of them (you know who you are) - but I like to think I know a thing or two when it comes to libraries. And one of the things I like to think is that every real city should have a real library, preferably a big old one, downtown, with lions guarding the front doors and a huge old reading room with long tables and little green-shaded lamps.

The Boston Public Library (or BPL, for those who talk about it so much they must abbreviate) does pretty well on most of these counts. It's situated in downtown Boston on graceful Copley Square. Skate punks are fond of its broad plaza steps.

No lions at the gates; two stately ladies do the job instead. Art and Wisdom, perhaps? Whatever they are, they're not a little scary!

Another library must-have: the inspirational motto posted above the door. Free to all, as every library should be.

Is that you, Aslan? Who wants to sit around outside in the cold? Leave that to the scary ladies. Smart lions guard the steps indoors.

Graceful murals. (I'm too lazy to look up who painted them. Proof that I'm not a real library geek. Turn down a chance to use reference materials? Never!)

A glimpse into the reading room. Everyone looks like they're deep in their books, but of course they all look up when anyone walks in the room, dying for a distraction.

It's the Starbucks mermaid! Complete with racy split tail. Sorry this is so dark - no flash photog allowed in the library.

And at last, a view of the reading room from a balcony above. I didn't want to distract those distractable readers any more than I had to with my annoying beeping camera.

I spent several consecutive days here one summer with a broken hand reading Ian Frazier's "Great Plains." I was determined to read this book, and could only locate it in the closed stacks at the main branch, which meant I had to read it on site. I was taking big doses of Percocet for the hand and drifting in and out of fantasy anyway, so it was probably a safe place for me. I don't remember much of the book, unfortunately, but it was a memorable place to read it.


At 12/07/2005 2:32 PM, Anonymous natalie said...

what a great post! i love the cover image of you as a girl. the boston library reminds me a lot of the main library at uc berkeley -- very old school. you just gave me flashbacks of massive studying at those long desks. contrast that with the new modern style of seattle's public library and i am just a little bit torn. there is nothing like the smell of dark wood and leather chairs. :)

At 11/29/2008 1:27 PM, Anonymous Percocet Prescription Medication said...

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