Boston Public Library


Boston Public Library


First photo: A photograph of the Boston Public Library located in Boston, Massachusetts.

The Boston Public Library is the first publicly supported library in the United States. Established in 1848, it is now the second largest library in the U.S., housing over 22 million items. The library consists of two buildings, the general and the research library. Also designated as a National Historic Landmark, the McKim Building, the research portion of the Boston Public Library, features the "first outstanding example of Renaissance Beaux-Arts Classicism in America." The McKim building features fine murals, collections of rare books, manuscripts, maps, and prints. Another feature of the Boston Library is Bates Hall, which is acknowledged by many to be one of the most architecturally important rooms in the world. The reading room of the library, Bates Hall is lighted by 15 arched and grilled windows and remains one of the most historically significant spaces of the library. The general library portion is located in the Johnson Building, which houses over 700,000 volumes - the largest circulating collection of materials of the Boston Public Library.
Second photo: Photograph shows the staircase corridor at the main entrance of the Boston Public Library.

The Boston Public Library was founded in 1848 by the General Court of Massachusetts, and was the first free large municipal library in the United States. However, it had to go through several changes, as the original building was a former schoolhouse that only held 1, 600 volumes. In December of the same year, a new building was Boylston Street, which has been the permanent residence of the Boston Public Library ever since. The library continued to make history as the first branch library in the United States was opened in East Boston in 1870. This act would establish the branch system seen in other libraries. In 1986, it became a National Historic Landmark for its legacy and influence on other libraries in the country.


First photo - Unknown
Second photo - A.W. Elson & Co.





Source: Boston Public Library. (2012, October 25). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 5, 2012, from


Boston Public Library


Boston Public Library


Medium: Painting






Boston Public Library, Public Libraries, Murals, Bates Hall, Boston, Massachusetts, Historic





First photo - Unknown Second photo - A.W. Elson & Co., Boston Public Library, Boston Public Library, 1909

Cite As

First photo - Unknown Second photo - A.W. Elson & Co., “Boston Public Library,” Virtual Museum of Public Service, accessed April 19, 2024,