There are certain institutions that prove that we are a civilized people, and fewer that I hold in more esteem than the humble library. The main branch of the Boston Public Library is anything but humble, but with its inscriptions etched into its facade as “Built By the People and Dedicated to the Advancement of Learning”, the BPL is its own grand example of civilization.
The central library at Copley Square is actually two buildings – the baroque and ornate McKim building and the newer, more modernist Johnson building. The stateliness of the McKim will always have my heart, but I have to admit the new Johnson renovation is swanky. A dreary, lightless 70s interior was replaced with a bright open view to Boylston St., and the addition of a cafe makes it a swell place for working on your laptop or reading your favorite book.
However, do make time for the courtyard, and a walk through the various galleries and chambers of the McKim building. The architecture hearkens back to the 19th century, and echoes the historical foundations of the city, which are deep by American standards. There are courtyard concerts that go on from time to time, you’re well advised to check out the calendar for upcoming events.