The Boston Public Library

Established in 1848, by an act of the Great and General Court of Massachusetts, the Boston Public Library (BPL) was the first large free municipal library in the United States. The Boston Public Library's first building of its own was a former schoolhouse located on Mason Street that was opened to the public on March 20, 1854. The library's collections approximated 16,000 volumes, and it was obvious from the day the doors were first opened that the quarters were inadequate.

In December of that same year the library's Commissioners were authorized to locate a new building upon a lot on Boylston Street. The present Copley Square location has been home to the library since 1895, when architect Charles Follen McKim completed his "palace for the people."

Within its collection of 23 million items, the library boasts a wealth of rare books and manuscripts, maps, musical scores and prints. Among its large collections, the BPL holds several first edition folios by William Shakespeare, original music scores from Mozart to Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf;" and, in its rare book collection, the personal library of John Adams. Throughout the year, the Boston Public Library hosts exhibitions that offer the public an opportunity to view books and documents usually available only to research scholars.

Today, the Boston Public Library system includes a Central Library, twenty-four branches, a map center, a business library, and a website filled with digital content. Last year, 3.7 million people visited the Boston Public Library system, many in pursuit of research material, others looking for an afternoon's reading or the use of the computer or to attend a class, still others for the magnificent and unique art and architecture of many library locations. There were 7.8 million visits to the library's website and 3.7 million books and audiovisual items borrowed or downloaded.

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