Boston Public Library

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The Boston Public Library (est.1848) is a municipal public library system in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. It was the first publicly supported municipal library in the United States, the first large library open to the public in the United States, and the first public library to allow people to borrow books and other materials and take them home to read and use. The Boston Public Library is also the library of last recourse[3] of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; all adult residents of the state are entitled to borrowing and research privileges, and the library receives state funding. According to its website, the Boston Public Library contains 8.9 million books and A/V (approximately 22 million items encompassing all formats),[4] making it one of the largest public libraries in the nation.[5]

Contents

Overview

According to its website, the collection of the Boston Public Library has grown to 6.1 million books, which makes it one of the largest municipal public library systems in the United States. According to the American Library Association, the circulation of the BPL is 15,458,022 which also makes it one of the busiest public library systems in the nation. Because of the strength and importance of its research collection, the Boston Public Library is a member of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), a not-for-profit organization comprising the research libraries of North America. The New York Public Library is the only other public library that is a member of the ARL. The library has special strengths in art and art history (available on the third floor of the McKim building) and American history (including significant research material), and maintains a depository of government documents.

Included in the BPL's research collection are more than 1.7 million rare books and manuscripts. It possesses wide-ranging and important holdings, including medieval manuscripts and incunabula, early editions of William Shakespeare (among which are a number of Shakespeare quartos and the First Folio), the George Ticknor collection of Spanish literature, a major collection of Daniel Defoe, records of colonial Boston, the 3,800 volume personal library of John Adams, the mathematical and astronomical library of Nathaniel Bowditch, important manuscript archives on abolitionism, including the papers of William Lloyd Garrison, and a major collection of materials on the Sacco and Vanzetti case. There are large collections of prints, photographs, postcards, and maps. The library, for example, holds one of the major collections of watercolors and drawings by Thomas Rowlandson. The library has a special strength in music, and holds the archives of the Handel and Haydn Society, scores from the estate of Serge Koussevitzky, and the papers of the important American composer Walter Piston.

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