Boston chronicles: Copley Square & Public Library

The Boston Public Library, part of Copley Square, was a highlight for me on this short trip to Massachusetts. As mentioned in the previous post, I actually thought the building looked like a court house!

Boston Public Library – © Claudette Labriola

We had to wait among tolling bells for the doors to open and hung around the square for a while, looking at all the sights. I shot a short video of a 360 degree view if you’re interested in looking at it. You have to scroll down a bit to see it.

© Claudette Labriola

Once the doors opened, a small but steady stream of people entered the building. And immediately, we were confronted by two large lion statues.

“Those are the New York library lions,” I said to myself, recalling a book I read almost to the point of memorization to my kids for years and years. ♥️

Seems Boston has lions guarding its library, too. I think that’s fabulous!

The building is designed in grand Renaissance style, which assaults every sense when you first enter the main hall. In a good way!

There were restrooms to the left and a cafe to the right, but in the middle, flanked by the two lions, was an imposing staircase surrounded by art, sculptures and murals.

I spent a lot of time just in the hallway. It didn’t even feel like a library at all at this time.

Here’s what the Boston Discovery Guide displays on their website:

Image source:

The first few words on this website describe how the Boston Public Library feels like a museum because of its spectacular paintings, tapestries, architectural details and sculptures, plus a third floor gallery filled with murals by John Singer Sargent. (Source:

It really is a treasure trove of culture.

Here’s another view, from above, from the Art & Architecture tab of the Boston Public Library website:

Image source:

Our host and my mom basically stayed together wandering around this amazing place, but my sister and I sort of walked off on our own. I was in a trance, really, and kept thinking how much I will enjoy reading up on this library and its history. Here’s a short version:

The Boston Public Library was established in 1848 and considered a pioneer of public library service in America. Why? Because it’s marked by a number of firsts:

  1. first large free municipal library in the United States
  2. first public library to lend books
  3. first to have a branch library
  4. first to have a children’s room

The building we were in, the one that looked like a court house to me from its exterior view point, is called the McKim building. There are more, and better, photographs of its interior on this site if you’re into libraries or art and architecture.

I noticed that this was only one part of the Boston Public Library in that there weren’t any “regular” books on shelves we can remove, read or lend out. That’s because there is another branch of this particular library, one we didn’t visit and is located on an adjacent street. In total there are two dozen branches scattered across the city where people can borrow books and access typical library services.

Continuing my wide-eyed, open-mouthed journey through the McKim building I was treated to this room next:

It was interesting moving through this space on Mother’s Day Sunday because it wasn’t busy and gave us lots of room to look and absorb the beauty of this gorgeous interior.

But the highlight was the Bates Hall reading room.

I immediately imagined myself sitting at one of those tables with my laptop churning out book after book.

Bates Hall is named for the library’s first great benefactor Joshua Bates. Here is how Boston Globe writer Sam Allis describes it:

Bates Hall, the great reading room of the BPL, vast and hushed and illuminated with a profusion of green lampshades like fireflies is one of Boston’s secular spots that are sacred.


Paraphrased – source:,_McKim_Building

At the far end, I was treated to this:

© Claudette Labriola

I felt like I was in a church in Rome or something. 🙂

I looked a little closer at the books, which looked very old and very worn and very loved.

Imagine being one of the thousands of people who have touched these books, flipped through these books…


There is more to share about this library which I will do another time. Because we also went onto the third floor, walked past a desk with a suggestion box, looked at but didn’t stop in the little tea room and cast a quick glance at the lovely outdoor courtyard.

Stay tuned for the next part! And thank you for stopping by my blog.

Missed earlier parts? Here they are in order:


13 thoughts on “Boston chronicles: Copley Square & Public Library

  1. I’m enjoying your Boston posts, but somehow seem to have skipped over the part where you give me a huge public shout-out for correctly guessing where you were vacationing pretty much from the start. That’s an oversight you’ll no doubt be correcting soon, I imagine!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A library but not really- how fascinating and I assume associated with it’s historical value to American society. It really does fall into the museum category, but what a place to wander around for hours!


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